More on Proposed LARGE Ethanol Plant

I wasn’t able to attend last week’s informational meeting, and haven’t spoken to anyone who did. If any of our readers can provide a summary, please post a comment.

Apparently, Advanced BioEnergy, the company formed in 2005 which is interested in building a plant in this area, is merging with two South Dakota plants. Associated Press wire sources indicate that the company is planning a 100 million gallon plant for this area.

I’m still researching the issue, and haven’t decided if I believe this proposal is a net plus or net minus for the community when all the factors (economic, environmental, implications for transportation and quality of life, etc.) are weighed. Thoughts, anyone?


  1. Carol said:

    Issues to addresss:
    Rail spur(s) and rail traffic
    Truck traffic in and out (corn)
    Dust from handling and traffic
    WATER – CANNOT DUMP INTO IMPAIRED WATER. Takes 1,000 gallons/minute, process water is contaminated with ???, how much is consumed, recycled, and wastewater? Wastewater is treated how? Wastewater is dumped where? Remaining contaminants are? Temperature of water is?
    Net energy gain/loss, considering diesel used for truck and rail to get corn in and ethanol out, gas burned to make it, parasitic load for processing, CO2 output of all of the above.
    Electric load – most ethanol plants suck a lot of juice and require new transmission.
    Ownership & Economic Development – Where does the money go? Local owners, local banks, local contractors, local union/prevailing wage workers, local farmers corn, local truckers, etc.?
    Tax – Corporate tax, real estate tax, other taxes? Will there be any exemptions? Will plant be net dollar benefit or detriment?
    Infrastructure – Does developer/owner pay for roads, rail, transmission, water, water treatment?
    What else???

    November 13, 2006
  2. Northfielders should be vehemently opposed to the building of this plant. This isn’t just a “not in my back yard” issue: ethanol is never worth it.

    This plant would be a way for a company to make a quick buck, with no thought whatsoever to the detrimental impact to our environment. Ethanol is nothing more than just that — a good way to make money: in Minnesota, we get the biggest blind hawking of the nature’s not-so-miraculous fuel because it could bring our state — and in this case, our town — cash.

    Maybe we could rake in some dough by building a nuclear waste dump, too…

    November 15, 2006
  3. Kiffi Summa said:

    Tracy: I have been meaning to comment on the “big ethanol meeting” for some time, but a few other oddities, like the local election have been taking up my thought process.
    I was at the 11.4 meeting at Little Prairie Church. The League of Women Voters was asked to collect ., organize and moderate the audience’s questions. There has been a lot of opinion about that, but leaving that subject aside for the moment……….
    First of all, when you go into that church, you see one third sanctuary, and two thirds community center. It is a toally impressive venue which speaks to the strength of that specific area community.
    MANY people [150?, 200?] gathered to listen , and speak on a subject that will be defining for their community. I do not wish to comment on all the pros and cons, but this I do very much want to say………. There is nothing that should threaten the existence of a human community like that of Little Prairie. The history, humanity, and love of land and home that pervades that community is what most of us strive for. It restored my faith in America; that is not lightly said. My family has been in this country since 1630. I have been profoundly disturbed by some of the directions my country has taken. The values, and I’m not talking religion here, the values that exist in that community are what have made, and continue to make this country strong.
    I believe small towns are the future of this country, and the small communities that exist in the countryside,also. We cannot let those structures be destroyed; and I am strongly against anything that threatens their ongoing existence.
    We must find ways to get what we need, without destroying what we have…………

    November 25, 2006
  4. Tracy Davis said:

    Thank you for the update and your comments, Kiffi. (Sometime I’d love to get into why you believe that small towns are our future, but that’s another discussion.)

    November 27, 2006
  5. Kiffi Summa said:

    Well it’s late , Tracy, and I’ve just come from a very thought provoking meeting on NF curfew ordinance…..but your question needs to at least be BRIEFLY responded to.
    Isn’t it all too obvious that “we” are not doing too well managing cities and all their attendant complexities? So, maybe, just maybe, small towns still have a chance to be governed/planned/managed in a mor sustainable way…..IF we will take the trouble and make the hard choices [after having the hard dialogue] to do so. We have to engage and find the way[s].
    More on this later??????????????

    November 27, 2006
  6. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Aha, here is Kiffi’s report. I’ve been responding to Tracy’s posting of the Jason Hill report that is in another place. O’Leary’s comment here is much appreciated also.

    Ethanol aside, the larger question for the township is whether or not to go ahead with planning and zoning. The public meeting on this is next Wed. Dec. 6, at Bridgewater Township Hall in Dundas. I am very discouraged right now, because only one of our three Bridgewater Township supervisors, Leif Knecht, has come out in favor of doing township zoning. It takes two to tango.

    If the answer is no, the moratorium on commercial/industrial development including ag-related commercial in effect in the township since last June will be lifted and Advanced BioEnergy will activate its application at the county so fast our heads will spin. Sadly, Little Prairie Community will be lost. And for what?

    S. Henriksen

    December 1, 2006
  7. Kiffi Summa said:

    What continues to appall me is this: where is the local newspaper[NFNews} on this issue? there is a major struggle going on in Bridgewater township, and hardly anyone in Northfield, the nearest neighbor with a newspaper, knows anything about it. And embedded in that struggle are all the elements of great news stories, and great news stories sell newspapers.
    There are issues of a tight rural community, with divergent ideas about change…….. issues of elected townships officials who campaigned on local control, but now seem to have changed, or become horrified by the intensity/nastiness of the fight……..and issues of technology, and environmental conncerns, BIG water issues, quality of life issues………….and issues of money.
    The newspaper in NF could be doing its journalistic duty, beyond the skeletal info that has been provided, and put this important issue before the larger adjacent public, but it has not.
    Why not? Given a lack of journalistic curiosity/responsibility, don’t they want to sell newspapers?
    Given their dilemma, I suggest that Bridgewater residents who don’t want the ethanol plant, and DO want township planning/zoning engage in a bit of respectful civil disobedience at their meeting next week. Stand up, join arms, and ask your supervisors to support you in the way you supported them when you voted for them. From what I saw at the Big meeting at Little Prairie Church, you’ve got a huge majority. Use it; will “they” call the sherriff on nine tenths of the people [their constituents] in the Township hall? wouldn’t that make a mockery of the idea of representative gov’t?
    Given some of the stories I’ve heard, maybe the supervisors need a whole lot of visible support to get by the “trauma”.
    Good Luck to Little Prairie!

    December 1, 2006
  8. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Kiffi is right–Northfield News should be engaged in the township zoning story. I called Friday noon to see if they were sending a reporter for Wed. night public meeting and it doesn’t sound likely.

    Check out the quarter page pro-ethanol ads in both Wed. and Sat. papers. Says they’re a coalition of farmers and friends of the proposed ethanol plant. When you call the 612 number you get someone from Progressive Rail. I hear their pitch is really interesting. They say Pheasants Forever and Sportsmen’s Club are in support of the wildlife habitat Advance BioEnergy will provide on the Hutton farm (within the boundaries of the RR loop?). An absurd idea.

    Stephanie Henriksen

    December 4, 2006
  9. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Has the ethanol plant topic ended??

    For anyone who has not had opportunity to hear Advanced BioEnergy present their proposal, there is a Bridgewater Township Planning Commission Work Session (all day) at the township hall in Dundas, 500 Ralway St. S, on Saturday, March 17 starting at 9 am. This is open to the public.

    Advanced BioEnergy will do a one-hour presentation at 9-10 am, followed by a half hour of questions. Then Central Valley Coop will talk about their business and future plans from 10:30-11:30, followed by questions til noon. The 5-member planning group will continue working on the ag-related business part of the draft ordinance until 5 pm.

    March 14, 2007
  10. Paul Fried said:

    Thanks for the update, Steph.

    A very belated comment regarding Kiffi’s criticism of the NNews from December 1: I have to give the NNews credit for publishing as much as they have, not only of letters to the editor and “Another View” guest columns, but also the long article regarding Jason, the recent (Harvard?) doctoral graduate who used to teach at St. Olaf, now at the U of M, who gave the presentation at St. Olaf college, speaking about the un-sustainability of corn ethanol (I think he may still live in town).

    The NNews also covered the illegality of the huge railroad car sign parked near Hwy 19 at Malt-O-Meal, which the city finally decided to call a “banner.” Like the feds finally catching Al Capone — for tax evasion. (I guess the lawyers have to be sure they can make an argument stick.)

    Prairies-to-power and Progressive rail have all those paid ads in the paper in favor of the ethanol plant, and I have felt in the past that the NNews sometimes avoids real stories in an effort to avoid offending certain paying ad customers.

    But I think they’ve at least made some significant effort in this case, in spite of those ads. That’s worth noting.

    March 15, 2007
  11. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Let’s get to the central issue–neither Faribault Daily nor Northfield News have printed the site plan map of the proposed ethanol plant and railyard since it became available November 4 at Little Prairie Church. I, and others, have repeatedly requested that the map be printed. Pictures speak louder than words.

    I made one last effort last Friday, March 9, and took the big colored map that clearly shows the 300 acres (most of it a railroad yard) from the township hall over to Devlyn so he could get a photo. He said it was warped and he’d rather have a digital right from the company.

    I trust it will be in NNews within the week, if not already. Please watch for it and call Devlyn at 645-1116 if it does not appear.

    I have to hand it to Ross Currier–I gave him the black and white copy and he put it on Locally Grown almost immediately. Conversation on this blog started from there. Thanks, Ross.

    March 16, 2007
  12. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Paul and Kiffi,

    NNews has an ethanol story in the works for this week. Thanks to all who may have prompted them. Meanwhile, Progressive Rail’s Dave Fellon emailed Supervisor Gary Ebling on March 12, confirming that he sees the need for a “Multi-Modal hub” which could include:

    Aggregates Terminal
    Automobile/Light Truck Distribution Center
    Coal/Fly Ash Storage Silos
    Intermodal (Piggyback) Facility
    Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to Rail Transfer Station

    As if a corn ethanol plant weren’t bad enough. Fly ash is what’s left after burning coal. I’m told it’s full of bad stuff that can’t be safely disposed of. Is that why it would be stored in silos??


    March 18, 2007
  13. Paul Fried said:

    Some quotes:

    Commonly known as fly ash, these ash particles consist of silica, alumina, oxides of iron, calcium, and magnesium and toxic heavy metals like lead, arsenic, cobalt, and copper.

    …This poses problems in the form of land use, health hazards, and environmental dangers. Both in disposal and in utilization utmost care has to be taken to safeguard the interest of human life, wild life, and such other considerations.

    When you google “fly ash” you get other references, usually to environmental risks. The byproducts from the burned coal are not like those from some burned plant growth that releases fertile substances and helps new growth. “Pot ash” is something sometimes mixed in with garden soil, not to be confused with fly ash.

    March 19, 2007
  14. Paul Fried said:

    Oops, but here’s one that speaks of tests mixing flyash with paper and manure, and using it to fertilize rice fields:

    The previous source claimed it was harmful to animals and humans, so these two sources are hard to reconcile without more research. I suppose Progressive Rail would have more research on the purpose for fly ash silos. Maybe they take the coal north to be burned, and then take the fly ash to be… disposed of? Used to extract certain chemical compounds? I’d recommend more research, or ask Progressive Rail.

    March 19, 2007
  15. Curt Benson said:

    I recently noticed a large diameter pipe running the across site of the proposed plant. In goes under 130th Street running north. I don’t know where it terminates. Does any one know what this is and where the pipe terminates? I’m guessing they may be running flow tests, seeing how much water can be sucked out of the ground. I’m speculating if they are moving as much water as that pipe could handle the water would have to end up in Wolf Creek and then the Cannon. (To be clear, I’m just speculating here and hope someone can come up with the real answer.) Any permits needed to do this?

    Thanks to those who are fighting this plant.

    March 19, 2007
  16. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Yes, the aquifer pump test (selected wells within l.5 miles are instrumented) will start up ASAP this week, discharging 1500 gal/minute for 7-20 days to Wolf Creek on the north side of Cty 8.

    Our knowledge of this began the snow emergency night of Feb. 28, when we stopped at Lon Little’s to see why he had a pile of piping in his yard right across from the ethanol site. Lon told us some govt guy said he had to let them through and they’d pay “whatever it takes” to get to the creek. I alerted a member of the township planning commission to check it out (they met on the snow alert night of Feb. 28). Supervisor Ebling told them the DNR had approved it. Wrong. I called the regional hydrologist who said no discharge plans had been discussed and if there was a trespass problem, to call the sheriff.

    More messages in the following days add up to the probability that Summit Envirosolutions bypassed the hydrologist and went ahead and laid pipe with the expectation that someone higher up would approve discharge to the creek after the fact. This does not inspire confidence in our state agencies.

    Anyone attending the CRWP day on The Ethanol Industry, Wed. March 21, 9am-4 pm at American Legion in Faribault may want to ask the speakers about the streamlining of ethanol review that is going on–Jeff Green in particular.

    With the pump test data available, MPCA can start work on the EAW at the end of March. A lot of taxpayer money and agency staff time on a process that may not lead to the permitting of the plant, depending on wording of the township ordinance. Not to mention the ongoing stress on the citizenry and drawdown on some of our wells. Candidate Jerry Anderson made this very clear on his half hour on KYMN last Saturday, 8:30-9 am, which is to his credit.

    March 19, 2007
  17. Tracy Davis said:

    FYI, Stephanie Henriksen has provided a brief update in her comments here.

    March 30, 2007
  18. Paul Fried said:

    For those who might be new to the discussion, or for those who are watching recent news coverage about corn ethanol in general, I wanted to post URL’s and brief comments about a few old and new sources to check out:

    Old (June 2006): The New York Times article at the URL below talks about how corn is among the most expensive crops from which to make ethanol, and one of the most heavily subsidised. Companies that blend ethanol with gas get tax credits of 51 cents per gallon, and after two years it’s possible for a new ethanol plant to make 100% profit. The corn ethanol industry is floating high, for now, on a tide of corporate welfare. Democrats and Republicans both tend to love ethanol because they think it helps them get votes, and it helps the economy. It helps some corporations get rich too. But it’s probably not good for the planet, the soil, or the taxpayer.

    Somewhat new (this month): The article and comments at the URL below represents a great deal of the debate over alternative fuels.

    New: At the URL below, an article about expectations for next fall’s corn harvest, expected to be the biggest since 1944.

    Old (May 2006): The article at the URL below is an interview with Vinod Khosla, a venture capitalist who is now pushing for ethanol and biofuel solutions.

    Somewhat new (January 2007): Below, another NYTimes URL, this time to a more recent article about the even stronger drive toward ethanol since Bush unveiled his initiative to increase ethanol and biofuels to substitute for more foreign oil.

    March 30, 2007

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