St. James residents told planned ethanol plant got quick approval

St. James residents told planned ethanol plant got quick approval

The expedited permit process for a proposed ethanol plant in St. James Parish was carried out with unusual speed, said a consultant who provides technical assistance to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.

”The permit application review process took less than three months from submittal of the application on July 14, 2006, through agency review to public comment on Oct. 12, 2006,” said Wilma Subra of the Subra Co.

She made the statement during an meeting sponsored by St. James Citizens for Jobs and the Environment.

”Applications don’t happen in three months,” Subra said, referring to permit applicant Tiger State Ethanol.

The proposed ethanol plant in Convent would produce 110 million gallons per year of fuel-grade ethanol, Subra said. Ethanol is most commonly used as a gasoline additive.

The civic group arranged the meeting Friday in the St. James Parish Courthouse Complex to offer area residents information about the plant.

”I asked Miss Subra, she’s a chemist, if she would come over and explain to us what (emissions are) going to be released by the plant,” said Convent resident Richard Burton. ”This plant will not just affect us, but the whole parish.”

Representatives from Tiger State Ethanol were invited to the meeting; however, the group had to attend a board meeting in Houston, said Trevor Thompson at an Oct. 31 town meeting. Thompson is the vice president of Excel Corp., the company that would build the new plant.

During Friday’s meeting, Subra gave a briefing to the small audience on expected plant emissions.

She said she obtained her information from the plant’s permit application and official file with the DEQ as well as the Toxic Release Inventory. The inventory includes data supplied directly by companies, in this case Tiger State Ethanol, to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A plant is considered a minor source of air pollutants when emissions fall below 100 tons per year, she said. Tiger State Ethanol barely qualifies as a minor source, Subra said.

The plant emissions would include 95 tons per year of volatile organic compounds, which are chemicals that contribute to ozone formation, 93.9 tons of carbon monoxide, 91.2 tons of nitrogen oxides, 72.7 tons of particulates, and 53.2 tons of sulfur dioxide, Subra said.

In addition, the plant would emit during a year’s time about eight-tenths of a ton of formaldehyde, a probable human cancer-causing agent, Subra said.

The plant also would emit 3.3 tons of acetaldehyde, 0.001 tons per year of dichlorobenzene, and 0.18 tons of ethyl benzene, all possible human cancer-causing agents, Subra said.

”Tiger State reduced the facility operating hours from 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 52 weeks per year, to 50 weeks per year in order to obtain emission estimates that fall below the threshold limits,” Subra wrote in a meeting handout.

Thompson indicated at the earlier meeting that plant representatives are committed to keeping an open dialogue with the community and will make every effort to attend meetings with area residents.

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