Podcast: interview of Progressive Rail’s Dave Fellon about the proposed ethanol plant


Here’s Part 2 of our interview with Dave Fellon, president of Progressive Rail.

(Part 1 is blogged here.)

It focuses entirely on the proposed ethanol plant in Bridgewater Township. We did most of the interview on the train but some in their truck after we got off.

Click play to listen (38 minutes). You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe with iTunes.

We seek your comments and suggestions. Attach a comment to this blog post, use the Contact Us page to send us email, or submit an audio comment. See the show archives for audio of other episodes.


  1. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    The 38 minutes of drivel from Dave Fellon on this train trip was very hard to listen to. But since I suffered through it, do plow through my 12 paragraphs here, if only for my sake.

    Fellon may know the rail business, but he doesn’t know alternative energy or ethanol. Let’s go back to the beginning, a year ago, when Supervisor Gary Ebling brought Doug Jones of Wheeling Township to a Bridgewater Township meeting asking our support for opening up 200-300 acres of our ag zone to industry on Progressive Rail at Comus Crossing. Four reasons we were not enthusiastic:

    l) We had just spent a year monitoring county plans to open up of more than a thousand acres on I-35 south of the Big Steer to highway commercial. A future wastewater treatment plant is proposed for Heath or Wolf Creek. The area is just northwest of us and the traffic will impact us.

    2) Faribault is moving commercial/industrial up our direction from the south and truck traffic from the relocated Metcon, Aldi and other big businesses will be hitting us very soon.

    3) We just got through gruelling months of work on a mutual annexation agreement with Dundas, sparked by the taking of 240 acres of the Harold Paulson farm south of Cty 1 from our township for housing. The agreement gives Dundas 1200 acres over 30 years with industrial land FREE (not counted against the total per year). In return, they give us 3 of the 7 seats on their planning commission so we will be able to guide these projects as they come in.

    4) Dundas grabbed College City Beverage from Northfield and that plant and a water tower were coming in on Cty 8 out of Dundas. Add to that a very controversial extension of Cty l to handle traffic in the area. Note: A corridor study was finally undertaken, just now coming to conclusion.

    Now, a year later, Doug Jones’ proposal has blossomed into an ethanol plant with railroad “balloon track” trying to drop down into a heavily populated and historic area of our township. An ethanol plant belongs in the ag zone? Not so. In 2003 when Commissioner Don Olson proposed a last minute amendment to the Rice County Ordinance that put ethanol and biodiesel plants in the ag zone, we were the first county to allow that. Other counties put them in industrial zones of cities and STILL DO. The Claremont ethanol plant is on industrial land annexed to Claremont. The new plant at Fairmont in Martin County is on industrial land annexed to Fairmont with very few near neighbors.

    Our township has a chance to correct this error by not including ethanol/biodiesel as ag-related uses in the township ordinance. Will they decide to zone it out? I don’t know, but the next few weeks will be key–local control at work. Fellon knows that and is ramping up the PR campaign.

    Will our supervisors trade away our quality of life and the property values of all the farms in Little Prairie on the promise of some tax dollars from a corn ethanol plant to spend on roads, art centers, or a public park? Will they be enticed by the next heavy industries (ag-related, Fellon says) that will line up by the “balloon track” such as a detergent or soy ink factory? Anybody know what a soap factory SMELLS LIKE????.

    Fellon’s claims that St. Olaf departments are receptive to the ABE corn ethanol plant are FALSE. If ABE tries to come in with a corn ethanol plant here, they will meet resistance from both colleges. Call Gene Bakko at St. Olaf if there is any doubt.

    My husband and I were on the township ag business subcommittee that toured the ethanol plant at Atwater Oct. 28 and helped plan the ethanol information meeting at Little Prairie Church on Nov. 4. I recommend that anyone trying to get a grasp of our situation take a tour of a large corn ethanol plant. See is believing. And, do attend the talk by Jason Hill at St. Olaf the evening of Jan. 18, 7-8:30 sponsored by St. Olaf, CRWP and LWV. (Location to be announced.) You will get solid information you will not hear from Fellon and his 13 “experts.”

    Fellon claims that ABE is a good, established business is false. Revis Stephenson had been in business only 18 months when he first talked to the township in June. He had no plants up and running, only two in the permitting process (Nebraska and Indiana). They recently bought another company in SD, so they can claim to have a plant or two in operation.

    ABE a good neighbor? They had several meetings last winter and spring with Rice County and city officials where the township was NOT included. Only when I pressed Commissioner Gillen as to which farm was involved (Lynn Hutton’s) and the word got out, did Revis rush over to a townshp meeting. This summer, with our township moratorium in place, ABE went ahead and drilled a municipal size well without notification to neighbors. Our townshp had to finally issue them a directive to inform the neighbors about upcoming pump testing of their wells.

    The ponding of discharge water on site is not done anywhere else that I know of and MPCA will not say if that proposal is acceptable until the EAW is prepared. All this talk about discharge to the old Hatfield swamp is conjecture at this point. Their first proposal was to discharge to Wolf Creek.

    END of chapter.

    January 2, 2007
  2. victor summa said:

    Trip from Lakeville a bumpy ride.

    Stephanie Henriksen’s comments on Progressive Rail CEO Dave Fellon’s “drivel” are filled with fact. Listening to the repetitive and meaningless claims for this plant and how it will put Bridgewater on the “National Map”… along with providing parks and art centers for the township, is so foolish as to almost not warrant any response… except, the threat of development is so real, you need to take up pen to highlight the misrepresentations. But, how about Locally Grown’s responsibility in that misinformation adventure? Much like comments we’ve all heard (or made) about the Northfield News [sic] “Don’t believe what you read there.” you can certainly make a case for this criticism of Locally grown… Don’t Believe what you hear here…

    I guess if you’re a passenger on someone’s private rail car… and tooting the horn is part of the ride… and the dialogue… you can’t expect journalistic challenge from part time journalists, but to allow the essence of the ride from Lakeville to Northfield to spin the total marvel of “Rut and Glut” is a serious disservice. Soft spoken or not, Fellon is only offering spin. And, I’m confident that the big three of LC have a collective base of fact, to challenge the choo-choo guy’s remarks.

    I know, give’em a break… everyone knows that little boys love choo-choos.. and Tracy’s just one of the “boys”.

    The problem is… this is… the rhetoric {Fellon’s] that we often hear from candidates or elected officials, and always hear from developers. The truth is… that truth is… truly inconvenient, and, the research to uncover it [truth] is monumental in scope, hence journalistic drivel is the easier “ride”. Toot! Toot!

    Here’s a question that easily helps those of us who have any short term memory (Hwy. 3 Development) to make the case against Fellon’s remarks.

    THE QUESTION: Do we feel safer now that we know, (thanks to Fellon’s remarks) that Clancy Dokmo’s on board… stoking the boilers, spreading oil [diesel]… so to speak? Mr. Fellon suffers from lack of valid perspective in his ability to evaluate Dokmo’s role as a significant “accolade” in support of the potential Rail and Plant rape of Little Prairie.

    Hello! This is Rice County, 21st Century. We’re not opening up the “west” here with the “promise of rail”. The only buffalo in Bridgwater are domestic, raised for their meat, which by the way IS agricultural business in the Ag Zone.

    Full Disclosure: This is my first Hearing of a LC podgram. Am I being too curmudgeonly?


    January 2, 2007
  3. Ross Currier said:

    Hey Victor:

    Listen to Part III, the debriefing, and let us know if you think that the Kool-Aid started to wear off by then…


    January 2, 2007
  4. Sheila Beers said:

    Revis Stephenson III has been hounding my hometown of Argos, IN, about installing an ethanol plant here since the summer of 2005. The north end of the plant is across a field from my home on the last street in town. Argos is a historic town, and an ethanol plant would ruin it and the lives of its citizens. Stephenson tries to use his “good neighbor” baloney on us, and I (as one of the founding families) have told him repeatedly that he and his proposed plant are not welcome here. We continue the opposition because he and his goons expect to have the town “given” to them. Please do not fall for his propaganda. I would appreciate hearing about your efforts to oppose him and the ethanol plant.

    January 16, 2007
  5. […] zoning rule changes are being fought not only in Illinois, but also Minnesota and Indiana. Iowa, apparently, already allows fuel ethanol under its ag business (A-2) zoning […]

    February 28, 2007
  6. kiffi summa said:

    I am hopeful (ever hopeful) that the newspaper will begin to explore the ethanol plant in B’water issue as an imperative one for them to take up. If they do not, the same old accusations of “just an advertising rag” will roll around again, and everyone will sigh, and say we need a better newspaper, etc., etc.
    Maybe it’s time for the people, all the people who comment on Northfield.org, and Locally Grown to speak out in the Print public arena, and say”Look, we care about these issues that affect our town, our neighbors, our countryside. We want the NFNews to take these issues up; we want them to be a vehicle for engendering this discussion in the print community, and not just in the Letters to the Editor. We believe that ‘s a responsibility of a local newspaper, and we’ll buy more newspapers if you do it!”
    The electronic news/media/discussion is becoming far more engaging than the print media. Does the print media want to be the dinosaur?
    But if this discussion, and all important local issues are discussed with more thoughtful debate in the electronic arena, soon no other will be needed. BUT, it’s a two-way deal……..The newspaper has to do more than run ads, and the many people who offer their opinions here have to also be engaged in a print arena. Otherwise it’s just comparatively small groups talking to each other.
    Will BOTH sides please step up to the rail?

    February 28, 2007
  7. Stephanie Henriksen said:

    Thanks to all who submitted letters to the editor. But Kiffi is right–we need NNews covering it. Right now, Summit Envirosolutions is laying out piping to carry water from an aquifer test of 7 to 20 days in length through a culvert under Cty 8 and across Lonnie Little’s land to Wolf Creek. Lonnie was told by someone, he has trouble remembering names, that he had to give access. He was told he would be compensated, but has no paperwork to support that.

    Who on this list will call Devlyn Brooks at 645-1116 tomorrow morning to ask that they send a reporter? Ask them to start interviewing neighbors and take a photo, put a story together.

    Would like to hear more from Sheila Beers of Argos, IN. Our fate in Dundas, MN is in the hands of the supervisors of Bridgewater Township. I assume the fate of Argus is in the hands of its City Council. As long as Revis Stephenson and his “goons” have the attention of even one local govt official, they will persist as they are here.

    February 28, 2007
  8. […] Advanced BioEnergy hopes to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol per year. According to a Institure for Agriculture and Trade Policy study, it takes 3.5 to 6 gallons of water for every gallon of ethanol produced. The proposed ethanol plant will therefore use between 350 and 600 million gallons of water per year, a question that Locally Grown tried to pursue in its podcast on the topic. […]

    May 29, 2007

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