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Court Rules Indiana Ethanol Plants Must Cut Back Emissions

ethanol plant

Photo: Fred Thompson (Flickr)

The Lincolnway Energy ethanol plant in Iowa.

Ethanol plants in Indiana may have to reduce the amount of air pollutants they emit because of an appeals ruling that came down Tuesday.

Under Environmental Protection Agency standards, plants that are classified as “chemical process plants” are allowed to emit 100 tons of air pollutants per year while other facilities can release up to 250 tons.

IDEM has not been classifying the state’s ethanol plants under the stricter category, allowing them to release about two times more pollutants than they would otherwise.

The Natural Resources Defense Council brought a suit against IDEM. The Council’s Clean Air Director John Walke says states are allowed to petition the EPA to loosen regulations, which he says was a common practice under the Bush administration.

“But since the Obma administration has taken office, they have not given force to those weaker rules around the country,” he says. “The Indiana agency realized this, I believe, and was trying to circumvent the need to gain that approval from the Obama EPA.”

POET Biorefining runs four plants in Indiana and was a defendant in the case. Company officials say the plants have always operated below the 100-ton regulation and plan to continue to do so.

“Using biofuel improves air quality, and as such POET takes it very seriously,” POET spokesperson Matt Merritt said in a statement.

IDEM declined to comment except to say it’s considering whether to appeal the ruling.

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