Contact: Ralph Pribble, 651-757-2657
Heartland Corn Products, an ethanol producer in Winthrop, has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $53,000 to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for a variety of environmental violations at its facility. The violations came to light when the company conducted its own environmental audit in 2018 after a change in management. In addition to paying the penalty, the company will also correct the violations it identified and fully comply with its various permits going forward.
The audit found the facility had not been doing proper recordkeeping, performance testing, and reporting to the MPCA on the operation and maintenance of its pollution control equipment. In addition, Heartland had not fulfilled requirements around managing stormwater and dust on its property and handling hazardous wastes and used oil.
Environmental audits offer MPCA permittees a way to identify compliance problems and correct them without incurring penalties, provided the violations are under certain thresholds. In Heartland’s case, the audit turned up many violations that in total exceeded the discretionary threshold for civil penalties. However, MPCA officials credited the company’s new management for voluntarily undertaking the audit knowing that penalties would probably result.
MPCA permits are designed to protect human health and the environment by limiting pollution emissions and discharges from facilities. When companies do not fully comply with permit requirements, the resulting pollution can be harmful to people and the environment.
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 the violations were reported to authorities. The agency also attempts to recover the calculated economic benefit the company gained by failing to comply with environmental laws in a timely manner.