City vetoes health risk study request

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Clovis City Commissioners Thursday voted against a resolution encouraging the New Mexico Environment Department to investigate health impacts of a proposed ethanol plant southwest of Clovis.

By a vote of five against and two in favor, the commission opposed a resolution submitted by Commissioner Robert Sandoval that the city “requests and encourages the New Mexico Environment Department to carefully investigate and consider all the potential adverse health impacts arising from the construction and operation” of the proposed Clovis Ethanol plant near U.S. 60/84.

In support of the resolution, Sandoval said it would not require the commission to take a stand for or against the plant, but to show their concern for a large group of citizens who are worried about potential health risks.

“In doing this resolution,” Sandoval said, “I think what we’re trying to say is, we don’t know — we don’t know for sure if it’s safe or not safe.”

Commissioners Fred Van Soelen and Randy Crowder spoke against the resolution.
Van Soelen said the language of the resolution didn’t amount to much more than telling the Environment Department to do its job in reference to the plant’s air quality permit.

“We’re asking the Environment Department to do something they’re going to do anyway,” Van Soelen said. “I have full trust … that they’ll do that adequately.”

Crowder followed a different path to his decision, he said. Crowder said the federal Environment Protection Agency’s standards had changed in the last 90 days, and he checked Clovis Ethanol’s permit application against those to make sure the company didn’t submit in an attempt to be grandfathered into lower air quality standards.

On Sept. 21, the EPA set its particulate matter concentration limits for an annual basis (15 micrograms per cubic meter) and a 24-hour basis to provide additional protection on days with high particulate matter concentrations (35 micrograms per cubic meter).

Crowder said the American Lung Association referred to the EPA’s standards as weak, and recommended lower limits — 25 micrograms on a 24-hour basis and 12 micrograms on an annual standard.

According to Clovis Ethanol’s permit, Crowder said, its particulate matter concentration would average 8.17 micrograms daily on an annual basis and 25.83 micrograms on a 24-hour basis.

“Clovis Ethanol is outperforming the new standards” in its permit, Crowder said, and would also be performing near or below ALA standards as well.

Commissioner Isidro Garcia joined Sandoval in voting for the resolution, while Len Vohs, Juan Garza and Lunell Winton joined Crowder and Van Soelen in voting against the resolution.

Blake Prather, who submitted 1,500 signatures against the plant at its proposed location, said the Commission did not do its job in enforcing Gov. Bill Richardson’s executive order on environmental justice — making sure actions don’t subject minorities and lower-income citizens to more dangerous environmental conditions.

“They’re not looking at the impact this facility has on the children who go to Bella Vista and the elderly people who go to the rest home,” Prather said. “They’re going to have to bear the burden.

“Those children are not going to have adequate health care. That’s the reason we need a health risk analysis. The Commission doesn’t want to do that, because in doing so, they’ll have to admit this is not something this community needs.”

Prather is concerned about the plant because the state has no air quality standards, and follows national EPA standards. Those standards, Prather said, are set in favor of economic development and other states have adopted higher standards in response to problems with ethanol plants.

Some of the 1,500 signatures Prather submitted were not from Clovis, but Prather said that means surrounding communities — including Portales, which houses an Abengoa Bioenergy ethanol plant — believe the plant would not be a good idea at its proposed location.

Meetings Watch

In other business at the meeting, Commissioners:

— Approved an ordinance to raise monthly solid waste collection and disposal fees. Charges for a single-family dwelling will be $28.50 and each unit in a multi-family dwelling $20.56. The minimum charge for commercial accounts will be $13.55. The measure passed 6-1, with Garcia voting against the increases.

— Approved a resolution to enter into a joint purchasing group with other cities and local school boards, with the hope that the group would be able to get discounted rates on various items.

— Presented a Downtown Pride Award to Tankersley’s and a Good Housekeeping Award to the Clovis Wastewater Treatment plant.