Saint Paul, Minn. -- The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) announced that Heron Lake BioEnergy, LLC has agreed to pay a $66,000 penalty to resolve alleged violations of the company’s state-issued environmental permits at its ethanol production facility in Heron Lake in southwest Minnesota.
The agreement covers violations that date back to when the company began construction of the facility in October, 2005. During subsequent operations beginning in September, 2007, the facility violated the conditions of both its air quality and water quality permits on a number of occasions.
The air quality violations covered in the agreement include exceedances of permitted emissions limits, failure to conduct monitoring as required by the permit, failure to maintain emissions-control equipment as required, and failure to report or certify data to the MPCA as required.
Water quality violations covered in the agreement include failure to obtain prior MPCA approval to use chemical additives in wastewater processing, failure to provide specified holding times for samples, failure to monitor for specified pollutants at the frequency required, exceedances of permitted effluent limits, and failure to install or maintain required flow-monitoring equipment prior to discharging.
To resolve the violations, Heron Lake BioEnergy, LLC will pay a civil penalty of $66,000. The agreement allows up to $12,000 of the penalty amount to be satisfied through completion of a supplemental environmental project. SEPs are often used as part of enforcement agreements in which the payee agrees to undertake one or more projects that will benefit the environment. Projects must be approved by the MPCA. Heron Lake BioEnergy has proposed and the MPCA agreed that this SEP will consist of a study on how to improve capture of fugitive dust emissions at the facility.
In addition, the company agreed to a schedule of corrective actions to achieve compliance, including submitting to the MPCA specific plans on how it will comply with the facility’s environmental permit limits and prevent reoccurrence of violations in the future. Failure to comply with the schedule in the agreement will result in further specified penalties.
When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violations affected the environment, whether they were first-time or repeat violations, and how promptly they were reported to appropriate authorities. Penalties also attempt to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner. For a comprehensive list of enforcement actions by the MPCA, go to the agency’s Web site at www.pca.state.mn.us/newscenter/enforcement.html.