Ethanol summit getting industry, environmental regulators on same page

Contact: Forrest Peterson, 320-979-1776

State regulators and biofuel industry leaders want Minnesota companies to be able to grow quickly and create jobs without sacrificing environmental standards.

With those common goals, they formed a public-private collaboration to reduce complexity and streamline the process for permitting while bolstering environmental compliance for all industries in the state. It started with a meeting last year of representatives from the state’s 20 ethanol plants and officials from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Dept. of Agriculture.

With an eye toward environmental stewardship and clean business productivity, the second "ethanol summit" convened June 28 in Willmar to review progress and set future objectives.

Ethanol production plants operate with a variety of state and federal environmental permits regulating air emissions, water use, and stormwater and wastewater management.

“The meetings of the joint state-ethanol industry work group have resulted in a cooperative, improved understanding of how to work with each other,” says Sarah Kilgriff, manager of the land and air compliance in the MPCA’s Industrial Division. “It is already leading to better regulatory outcomes for the environment and producers in the ethanol industry.”

The meetings help to see other perspectives and create a better understanding of the complexity of the respective processes. The MPCA has defined the most urgent and useful information needed for the industry. The industry better understands how to work with the MPCA and the regulatory process.

The MPCA already has made some changes. New permit language allows more flexibility in making facility changes to avoid triggering the permit amendment process.

“Working together produces better outcomes for Minnesotans in terms of both the environment and economy compared with top-down regulation,” Kilgriff says. “Industry participants say they have great relationships with the MPCA and confidence that they can do a better job growing the industry.”

Minnesota is a national leader in ethanol policy and development. It was the first state to mandate the use of ethanol in motor vehicle fuel. State law requires that all gasoline sold in Minnesota contain 10 percent biofuel — that being exclusively ethanol.

The 20 plants in Minnesota produce more than one billion gallons of clean biofuel annually providing a market for more than 400 million bushels of corn. A by-product, distillers dried grains, is used for livestock feed.