Burning ethanol in your car is supposed to be better for the environment, but when the company producing the biofuel falsifies air pollution monitoring data, things may not be as clean as they seem.
That's what happened to Corn Plus, an ethanol producer in Minnesota that plead guilty in federal court last week to the falsifying charge and was hit with a fine of $760,000 ($310,000 of which was a civil penalty from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, according to the Minneapolis StarTribune). The company was caught because, for three months in 2009, the exact same data was reported to the MPCA. Corn Plus said in a statement (available after the jump) that this was likely due to "the isolated acts of a few employees in 2009 and early 2010, and without the consent, knowledge, or endorsement of Corn Plus's senior management."

What's most interesting is that the farmer-owned company had a water quality misdemeanor conviction two years ago that cost it over a million in fines and penalties but will still be allowed to keep operating. U.S. District Judge John Tunheim simply told the Corn Plus board of directors president, "If this happens again, there will be stiffer sanctions." At least there is no evidence that any any extra emissions were released into the air because of the falsifications.
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Corn Plus, a farmer-owned Cooperative that operates an ethanol production facility located
in Winnebago, Minnesota, was recently charged with one count of making false statements to the United States Environmental Protection Agency in violation of the federal Clean Air Act. The charges allege that employees of Corn Plus submitted false reports and documents to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding required monitoring activities and equipment readings for certain pollution control devices.

Corn Plus takes both its legal and its ethical obligation to protect the environment very seriously and has fully cooperated with the Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency throughout their investigations into this matter. Immediately upon learning of the alleged record-keeping issues, Corn Plus undertook an internal investigation to determine whether any wrongful conduct occurred. The results of this investigation, which Corn Plus voluntarily shared with governmental officials, showed that the likely falsification of the monitoring records resulted from the isolated acts of a few employees in 2009 and early 2010, and without the consent, knowledge, or endorsement of Corn Plus's senior management. There has been no evidence identified by any of the investigations to date that Corn Plus, at any time, actually exceeded any of its emissions limitations or was responsible for polluting the environment in any way.

As a result of its internal investigation, Corn Plus promptly terminated the employment of the employees responsible for the alleged false reports. Corn Plus has also undertaken several other voluntary remedial efforts to avoid any similar issues from occurring in the future. These efforts include the hiring of a new Environmental, Health and Safety Manager, contracting with Golder Associates out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, to consult regarding environmental compliance issues and to conduct regular audits of Corn Plus's activities, and implementing new policies and procedures. These efforts will help ensure that Corn Plus has the expertise and resources to fully comply with all of its environmental obligations moving into the future.

Although Corn Plus does not downplay the seriousness of the alleged violations or the importance of submitting accurate reports to the regulatory agencies, it notes that there are no allegations or evidence of any actual unpermitted pollution emissions or discharges from Corn Plus's facilities. Nonetheless, Corn Plus has recognized the importance of this matter and has consistently attempted to address any past issues, ensure future compliance with its environmental obligations, and continue to provide economic benefits to our region and State by providing jobs, a market for locally grown corn, and the safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly production of ethanol as an alternative fuel source. Accordingly, Corn Plus intends to continue cooperating with the regulatory agencies and is engaged in discussions with both state and federal officials to resolve these matters as expeditiously as possible.


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  • 73 Comments
      parthenon1
      • 1 Month Ago
      Either make the US ethanol distillers competitive with what we could import from Brazil without the tariffs or quit using ethanol and instead use methanol. True it needs more processing to make it less caustic to engine parts but it is free it is a byproduct of the natural gas production and currently is being burned off at the production sites and could be pumped through the same pipeline system as gasoline.
      jamesccollins
      • 1 Month Ago
      If anyone really cared about America's energy future, when all the natural gas and oil run out to make ethanol, the only thing that will be left is man's ability to create electron flow (electricity). If America had to do it over, they would have built electric power generating facilities using wind, water, and the sun. We would not be in the mess we are today. If the carbon capitalists lead this nation down their carbon path, we are all doomed.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hmmm, this brings to mind the bible prophecy of Revelation Chapter 11 verse 18: The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets, as well as your holy people, and all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest. It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth." Jehovah is landlord of the earth and he is about to throw out the tenants that are ruining his house....
        slock84455
        • 1 Month Ago
        .I believe in “DON’T ASK DON'T TELL" when it comes to religions. I do not believe in witchcrafts.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Wonder if there is going to be a class action over ethenol messing up the seals in lawnmowers and the needle valve in the carbuerator.
        chapython
        • 1 Month Ago
        I have a pressure washer that I had to have carbuerator rebuilt and a few other things because of ethanol according to the mechanic. My costs = $92.31. Pressure washer three years old,
          lgrrcr
          • 1 Month Ago
          @chapython
          Ethanol sucks, you get better gas mileage without it. It does cost more, but you still come out ahead without ethanol. Merry Christmas
      wilsonkoi
      • 3 Years Ago
      So one of the producers of Ethanol, which is subsidized by the taxpayers to the tune of 50+cents per gallon, faces a few fines, which are in essence paid for by taxpayers. Why waste the time and money to investigate them. Simply stop the government subsidies and let the FREE MARKET take care of the problem.
        Oscar
        • 1 Month Ago
        @wilsonkoi
        The Koch Brothers wouldn't like that, so it won't happen
      wesdog123
      • 1 Month Ago
      Funny how industry is suffering from a shortage of the CO2 that they require for their production needs. Yes, there are numerous companies that produce CO2...it is not just from an exhaust pipe or smoke stack...we manufacture the stuff right here in the U.S. Funny how there is an overabundance of CO2 floating around in our atmosphere waiting to be captured by someone who could be a billionaire if they can separate it for less than $100.00 per ton and sell it to our industries that need it.
      Multi Tude
      • 1 Month Ago
      Ethanol is crap . Burns bad . Raises food prices . Reduces motor power . Natural Gas is cleaner and cheaper .
      Fred
      • 1 Month Ago
      I knew they were villians,nothing said about the funes coming from exhaust is poison to the ground water.
      Andrea
      • 1 Month Ago
      Damn greedy farmers! They're destroying America!
      Larry Berglof
      • 1 Month Ago
      Corn Plus said in a statement that this was likely due to "the isolated acts of a few employees in 2009 and early 2010, and without the consent, knowledge, or endorsement of Corn Plus's senior management." Yeah, Ok! This company is stealing excuses from the obama admin. playbook.
      G2 Services, Ltd
      • 3 Years Ago
      The DMR reports have to be signed by an authorized representative of the corporation. I don't see how you could sign a report without reading it. If they knowingly submitted incorrect data then they should get a few months of free lunches courtesy of the US government.
        J.R.
        • 1 Month Ago
        @G2 Services, Ltd
        you don't know how it was'nt signed without reading it first.oh thats simple the same way the democrats passed obama care.
      • 1 Month Ago
      Obama lies every time he opens his mouth, fine him, throw him out of office, then lets put him in jail for misleading us on everything. He is pro black, pro poor, pro musilm, and pro failure so he can be the saviour. down with the brown clown from DC town!! no more years for big ears
        Dave D
        • 1 Month Ago
        Dude, if you want to be a total dick, there are other blogs for you to read. I don't care if you like the President or not, you don't have to start getting all racial and spouting your crap here. Just go away.
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