Minnesota Energy Ethanol CAA Settlement
In 2002, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began investigating a suspected pattern of noncompliance with the Prevention of Serious Deterioration/ New Source Review (PSD/NSR) requirements of the Clean Air Act (CAA) within the ethanol industry.The Clean Air Act's NSR program requires a source to install pollution controls and undertake other pre-construction obligations to control air pollution emissions. Subsequent investigations of several companies in the ethanol industry found them to be in violation for failure to obtain either PSD or minor source permits for new construction and/or modifications made at twelve facilities in Minnesota.
The ethanol industry sector manufactures ethanol for blending with automobile fuel, principally from industrial corn. Ethanol's high oxygen content allows automobile engines to combust fuel better, resulting in reduced tail pipe emissions. During the ethanol manufacturing process, dry mills burn off gasses which emit volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide into the air.
This agreement, announced on October 2, 2002 and one of twelve agreements with ethanol producers, will ensure Minnesota Energy's Buffalo Lake plant will utilize air pollution control equipment to greatly reduce air emissions. Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) will be reduced by 2,400-4,000 tons per year and carbon monoxide (CO) by 2,000 tons per year. In addition to contributing to ground-level ozone (smog), VOCs can cause serious health problems such as cancer and other effects; CO is harmful because it reduces oxygen delivery to the body's organs and tissues. The settlement also will result in annual reductions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) by 180 tons, particulate matter (PM) by 450 tons and hazardous air pollutants by 250 tons.
Minnesota Energy is required to install the Best Available Control Technology (BACT) and obtain appropriate permits from the state of Minnesota. Under the settlement, the plant will install thermal oxidizers that reduce VOC emissions by 95 percent from the feed dryers and meet new, more restrictive emission limits for NOx, PM, CO and hazardous air pollutants. In addition to emission control requirements valued at about $2 million, the facility will also pay a civil penalty ranging from $29,000 - $39,000. The company cooperated with the state and federal enforcement officials resulting in a expedited settlement process.