Chamber backs ethanol plant

By Marlena Hartz : CNJ staff writer

The Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution Wednesday that supports the development and construction of Clovis Ethanol, LLC.

According to the resolution, the Chamber supports the plant because technology and environmental restrictions will protect Clovis citizens from its potential emissions, the New Mexico Environment Department will oversee its operation, and its economic benefits are manifold.

In 10 years, Curry County would receive more than $9 million in gross receipts and property taxes from the plant, the resolution reads.

The Chamber Board of Directors passed the resolution with one opposed vote in a Wednesday meeting, according to Raymond Mondragon, Chamber vice president of governmental affairs.

The board has 24 elected members culled from the Clovis business community who represent more than 700 Chamber members, Chamber officials said.

“The Chamber is an organization that supports businesses,” Mondragon said. It “pays particular attention to economic, civic and industrial interests in the area.”

The Clovis Industrial Development Corp. also passed a resolution in support of Clovis Ethanol in a Tuesday meeting of its board of directors.

The lone opposer of the Chamber resolution was Sandra Smith, wife of Curry County Commissioner Albin Smith.

The Chamber resolution bucks a resolution against the plant passed by the Curry County Commission. That resolution passed in a 3-2 vote last Thursday and cited potential health concerns with the plant.

Of her vote, Sandra Smith said: “I am pro-business and I am a great supporter of agriculture, but it is simply a matter of location. I have talked to residents closest to the proposed site and they don’t want it. … I believe it’s just too close to the city of Clovis. … (It’s) not worth the potential risk to the health of Clovis residents, in my opinion.”

The plant would emit 90 tons of nitrogen dioxide, 92 tons of carbon monoxide, 60 tons of particulate matter, 53 tons of sulfur dioxide, and 90 tons of volatile organic compounds per year, according to the plant’s air quality permit application with New Mexico Environment Department.

Officials with ConAgra Trade Group — partners in Clovis Ethanol — have said the plant would not exceed federal standards for pollutants. The standards are set by the Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health.

Clovis Ethanol officials want to operate an ethanol plant along U.S. Highway 60/84, near ConAgra’s existing grain handling facility, Peavey Co. West. The plant would produce 110 million gallons of corn-based ethanol annually and employ about 100 people, directly and indirectly, ConAgra officials have said.

Before plant construction could begin, the New Mexico Environment Department must approve the plant’s air quality permit.

In a CIDC news release, CIDC and Chamber officials said they “feel very confident that the safety and air quality standards set by the State of New Mexico will protect the citizens of Clovis and Curry County from harmful emissions. CIDC and the Chamber have full faith in the state process to protect each and every citizen in Curry County.”

According to the release, the ethanol plant’s economic impact in taxes over the next 10 years estimated by the New Mexico Economic Development Department would be more than $70 million.

An NMED public hearing concerning the air quality permit was postponed to allow interested parties to collect information and has not been rescheduled yet, according to NMED spokesperson Marissa Stone.