Minnesota plant receives fine

First Posted: 12/29/2009

The effects of a fine issued last week to a Fibrowatt plant in Minnesota are reaching Surry County as local groups rekindle the Fibrowatt debate.
Fibrominn, a Fibrowatt plant in Benson, Minn., recently reached an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to pay a $65,000 fine for its alleged past failure to comply with state air-quality rules and permit conditions. Corrective actions also include Fibrominn installing a new sulfur dioxide monitor at a minimum cost of $80,000.
Sam Tesh, spokesperson for the Citizens Alliance for a Clean, Healthy Economy, said his Surry County based organization had originally been told by county commissioners and a Fibrowatt official that the Fibrominn issue was mostly a matter of paperwork.
Were thinking that someone has been misleading us in the county, said Tesh.
But Tesh, who is also a member of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, said the recent information released regarding the violation and settlement did not surprise him.
We have done a great deal of research on this material … We knew the power plant had been cited before, Tesh remarked.
The air emission violations began occurring in 2007 according to a press release sent out last week by the MPCA. Fibrominn opened in May 2007 and primarily burns turkey litter to generate electricity.
The MPCA press release stated: Since the start of operations, the facility has experienced numerous violations of its permit. The settlement addresses violations of late report submittals, failed performance test, and excess nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions. The company also failed to self-report deviations that occurred during operation of the facilitys poultry litter-fired boiler.
Terry Walmsley, vice president of environmental and public affairs for Fibrowatt, said that Fibrominn has now come in compliance with state regulations.
We have moved beyond and are operating well within our permit limits, Walmsley remarked yesterday.
The vice president said the violations were mostly associated with the start-up of the new plant. Walmsley said, The first time out of the box, there is a learning curve you have to go through.
Surry County Commissioner Craig Hunter has toured the plant in Minnesota. He said via e-mail this week, I consider the Minnesota plants small learning curve during its start up to be to North Carolinas and Surry Countys advantage.
He went on to say, I would also state to any citizen who questions air emissions from any industry or company (not just Fibrowatt) that I completely trust North Carolinas air quality regulatory agency (NC DEHNR) and their very rigorous air emissions permitting process and that I fully expect any exposure to air pollutants from emissions of an operating Fibrohills plant in Surry County to be non existent.
Paul Johnson, chairman of the board of commissioners, also thought the Minnesota event will benefit Surry County.
(Fibrowatt) wont make the same mistakes they made up there, he said.
He said he has researched the topic and found that its not uncommon for newly opened power plants to receive fines.
From what Ive read, what happened up there was very minor, Johnson remarked.
But members of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League disagree. Tesh pointed out that in some instances the plants submitted reports several months late. The league sent letters to state officials last week and issued a press release regarding the Fibrominn settlement.
The list of violations in this settlement reveals a pattern of contempt for the rules and an inability to meet even the most basic environmental standards, David Mickey, the leagues zero waste and safe energy coordinator, said in the press release. We would hope that no company in North Carolina that misses permit deadlines for months, violates its emissions limits and even fails to monitor the plants emissions could still continue to operate.
The league posted the settlement agreement between Fibrominn and MPCA on its Web site, www.bredl.org. Information about the settlement can also be found at www.pca.state.mn.us/ or www.fibrowattusa.com.
Contact Meghann Evans at [email protected] or 719-1952.

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