Onida ethanol project gets air-quality permit

Farm Forum

PIERRE — The ethanol plant planned at Onida received approval for an air-quality permit on Aug. 18.

The state Board of Minerals and Environment voted 6-1 to grant the permit sought by Ring-Neck Energy and Feed. The permit sets emission limits.

Two Onida residents, Clark Guthmiller and Kathy Hyde, asked the board to deny the permit or at least require that air-dispersion modeling be conducted before reaching a decision.

Guthmiller said he was willing to pay for the modeling.

Craig Smith, the lawyer for Ring-Neck, said state law doesn’t require modeling for an ethanol plant.

Guthmiller countered there is “a very good chance” air quality standards wouldn’t be met.

Board member Bob Morris of Belle Fourche said the board has to deal with evidence and law.

“What I’ve been hearing from you, with due respect, is merely speculation,” Morris, a lawyer, told Guthmiller and Hyde, who weren’t represented by a lawyer.

“You’ve put us in a position, because you’re speculating. You’re asking us to speculate. The law doesn’t allow us to do that,” Morris continued.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources recommended that the permit be granted.

DENR scientists used information gathered from air-dispersion modeling at other ethanol plants in South Dakota during the early 2000s.

“The rule is very clear. We don’t have to do modeling and none has been provided,” Smith said.

Hyde responded: “There’s no reason to put this plant where it’s going to be put.” She volunteered to have an air-quality monitor at her house after the plant begins operating.

Rex Hagg, a lawyer from Rapid City and the board’s chairman, wanted the sides to submit legal briefs explaining why the board doesn’t have to require modeling. His motion died when no other member would support it.

Hagg said the modeling would cost $10,000. He later cast the nay vote against the approval motion from Morris.

The permit covers the construction period. The plant eventually would need an operating permit if it is built and goes into production.

Morris told the sides they need to be good neighbors to each other. “A thing like this can fracture a community,” he said.

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