The countdown begins to ethanol decision

The Peavy Grain Elevator west of Clovis on U.S. 60/84 is the site of a proposed ethanol plant that would produce 108 million gallons of ethanol a year. (File photo)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

A contested ethanol plant moved one step closer to operation last week when a New Mexico Environment Department official recommended giving the plant the OK in a report.

NMED Secretary Ron Curry has 30 days from the date the report was submitted to decide whether the ConAgra Trade Group should be issued a permit to operate a 108-million-gallon-a-year ethanol plant just west of Clovis on U.S. 60/84.

The NMED report was based on a Jan. 11 public hearing regarding the plant.

The Clovis News Journal interviewed the manager of the ethanol plant, Kirk Johnson, Thursday. The following is based on that interview and the NMED report on the public hearing.

On water
Clovis Ethanol will use treated wastewater from the Clovis
wastewater treatment plant, according to Johnson. He estimates the plant will consume 1.2 million to 1.4 million gallons of water daily.

On construction
Building the plant will cost $150 million to $175 million. Once ground is broken, it should take 18 to 20 months to complete construction. A timeline for construction has not been set since permits are pending, Johnson said.

On proposed permit stipulations
Several stipulations have been added to ConAgra’s draft permit to alleviate public concerns over the plant. These stipulations go “above and beyond” those required under NMED statutes and regulations, the report reads. ConAgra must:

1) Increase stack heights at the facility from 50 to 100 feet. “This provision addresses community member inquiries whether the exhaust stack height could be increased to further disburse emissions from the facility,” the report reads.

2) Conduct an initial compliance test to demonstrate that regulated pollutants are and will remain below regulatory thresholds. Periodic testing of pollutants from the plant that are regulated by NMED will also be conducted, as required by law.

3) Establish a fugitive dust control plan for the existing Peavey West facility. This plan would address dust concerns associated with increased traffic on the highway to the plant, Johnson said.

4) Store dried distiller’s grain in an enclosure to prevent it from becoming windblown and settling in retention ponds, and limit emissions from those ponds.
5) Meet with interested community members at least once a year to answer questions about the plant’s operations and emissions.

On complying with permit stipulations
Clovis Ethanol does not contest the proposed permit stipulations, Johnson said. “We tried to listen and show some compromise through the whole process. We are committed to running a clean, safe business. Hopefully, these (stipulations) are things that will show our good faith and ease concerns in the community,” he said.