Ruling clears way for southwest Mo. ethanol plant

Monday, May 7, 2007

ST. LOUIS -- A circuit judge has ruled that a $165 million ethanol plant can be built in southwest Missouri despite claims by locals that it could consume too much water.

Boone County Circuit Judge Frank Conley on Friday would not stop construction of the plant near Rogersville, 20 miles east of Springfield.

He cited insufficient evidence for claims that the ethanol plant's daily consumption of 1.3 million gallons of water would deplete private wells and hurt the community.

Conley was assigned by the state Supreme Court to hear the case.

He said that because Webster County had no planning and zoning ordinances, it was up to the residents near the proposed plant to prove their area would be harmed by the plant.

There is "a real debate about ethanol and whether it is, in fact, an answer to the energy problems, as well as whether it creates more problems within the environment," the judge wrote. "However, this court must deal with the facts and the law as they now exist."

The ruling frees Gulfstream Bioflex Energy LLC to finalize purchase of a 252-acre parcel of land and arrange financing for the corn-to-fuel refinery, which is expected to produce 100 million gallons a year.

"We're just ready to go ahead with the project and hope to get along with the community a little better," company principal Charles Luna told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The company insists that there is plenty of water for the region.

Gulfstream says it plans two other ethanol plants in Missouri.

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