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Ethanol facilities agree to $1.05 million settlement

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
April 28, 2010
— The Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office announced Monday it had settled an environmental enforcement action against two Columbia County ethanol production facilities accused of air and wastewater violations.

In separate agreements, Didion Milling and Didion Ethanol each agreed to pay $525,000 in penalties and costs to the state for a long list of environmental violations referred to the attorney general in complaints by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


The agreement comes as the attorney general is reviewing a February 2009 referral by the DNR of air permit violations at United Ethanol in Milton. The referral was based on a 2008 enforcement action and report by the agency citing over 160 air permit violations at the facility.


Attorney general spokesman Bill Cosh wouldn’t comment on whether United Ethanol and the attorney general are working on a settlement similar to Didion’s. He said the attorney general expects any decision on United Ethanol still could be months away.


“That’s not unusual on these types of proceedings. The (attorney general) wants to do a thorough legal analysis,” he said.


Didion owns and operates an ethanol plant in the town of Courtland and a corn milling facility in Cambria. Both facilities had a variety of air pollution and wastewater permit violations, civil complaints filed by the DNR said.


According the attorney general, the complaints claim Didion:


-- Failed to conduct required air monitoring.


-- Violated particle emission limits.


-- Failed to control fugitive dust at its facilities.


-- Failed to comply with air permits for bag house operations and recordkeeping.


-- Falsified certifications, and failed to make note of violations.


-- Violated wastewater permit limits on effluent, additive and floating solids.


-- Operated a grain dryer outside of permitted hours.


Cosh said while the decision on the Didion case is not binding, the attorney general could draw from the case “to come up with offers and dispositions for other cases” involving ethanol facilities in Wisconsin.


“The environmental defense bar is also very tuned into our dispositions and (the attorney general) has already received calls wanting more details on Didion,” Cosh said.



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