Corn Plus ethanol plant to correct air permit, noise violations

Contact: Cathy Rofshus, 507-206-2608

Mankato, Minn. — The Corn Plus ethanol plant in Winnebago has taken steps to more diligently inspect and maintain equipment that controls air pollutants, under an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The company has also agreed to correct other violations at the plant and pay a $25,141 penalty. State inspections in 2012 and 2014, along with a file review this year, found several environmental violations at Corn Plus.

These violations include venting pollutants to the atmosphere for longer than permitted; failing to inspect equipment and keep records according to permit conditions; failing to calibrate equipment to ensure proper operation to control pollutants; replacing equipment without permits; and allowing night-time noise levels above state standards. Permit conditions and state standards are designed to protect human and environmental health from air pollutants.

Corn Plus has an application pending with the MPCA for renewal of its environmental permits. Under the agreement with the agency, the company must submit more information for that application to move forward.

The penalty and conditions are part of a stipulation agreement between Corn Plus and the MPCA. This type of agreement is one of the tools the agency uses to achieve compliance with environmental laws. When calculating penalties, the MPCA takes into account how seriously the violation affected the environment, whether it was a first-time or repeat violation and how promptly the violation was reported to appropriate authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit gained by failure to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.

This recent agreement follows actions by Corn Plus to correct past air and water quality violations. In 2011, the company took several steps to correct air permit violations, including falsifying air monitoring data and paid a $310,000 state penalty. In 2010, the company paid a $200,000 state penalty for water quality violations and agreed to environmental projects at the plant costing at least $691,000. In 2009, Corn Plus paid a $150,000 penalty as part of a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for criminal charges related to water quality violations.