Planned ethanol plant draws resistance

? A proposal to build a $200 million ethanol plant in Shawnee County met stiff resistance at a public hearing, where nearly all of the 29 speakers opposed the plan.

About 150 people attended a public hearing Friday evening on whether the state should grant an air permit to Emerald Renewable Energy, a subsidiary of Cargill, which wants to build the plant on a 300-acre site in northwest Shawnee County.

Opponents said the ethanol plant would create pollution, use too much water and hurt a nearby residential area. One supporter said the plant would meet or exceed government safety regulations and would have special devices to restrict odor.

Representatives of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the state would provide written response to the speakers’ questions but did not say when a decision on the air permit might be made.

Mick Mines, a representative of Emerald Renewable Energy, met with opponents before the public hearing. He said the proposed ethanol plant would release 300 to 400 tons of emissions per year, noting that most cars emit about 6 tons of pollutants per year.

The proposed plant would produce 100 million gallons of ethanol per year and 330,000 tons of distillery grains, he said, using 1.2 million gallons of water per day, most of it for the cooling towers. Mines also said the plant would employ about 40 people.

The Joint Economic Development Organization has already offered Emerald Renewable $290,000 in incentives, $50,000 in land acquisition options and has offered an incentive of $5,714 per job created.

Mines acknowledged that the ethanol-making process produces an odor, but said thermal oxidizers at the plant will break down odor-producing compounds.