Scott City officials invited on field trip to central Missouri ethanol plant

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Cape Girardeau Area Magnet, Scott County government and a company interested in building a local ethanol plant are organizing a field trip to an ethanol plant in Malta Bend, Mo.

Next Wednesday the group of local government officials and economic development personnel will make the trip to a 40-million-gallon-per-year ethanol plant owned by Mid-Missouri Energy, said Magnet director Mitch Robinson. Invitations have been extended to public officials in Scott City and Scott County, Cape Girardeau and Cape Girardeau County, Robinson said.

Robinson said the scheduling of the trip is not really in response to the opposition that has surfaced in Scott City to the possibility of ethanol plants being constructed in the vicinity of the Southeast Missouri Port Authority, but more as a fact-gathering trip to acquaint local officials with ethanol production.

"It's more to familiarize local officials and citizens of the impact of an ethanol plant on the area, as well as what a plant looks like and how it operates," said Robinson.

In recent weeks Monty Keesee, who lives just outside Scott City near the SEMO Port, has been leading opposition to prevent the building of several ethanol operations that are rumored to be interested in building near Scott City. Keesee says opposition is growing in Scott City.

Two city council members, Ward 2 Councilwoman Leann Wilthong and Ward 4 Councilman Rob Henderson, have both expressed skepticism about the ethanol industry and its "green" reputation. Both say they aren't taking positions as a council members, but as concerned residents of the city.

At Monday night's meeting of the Scott City Council, Mayor Tim Porch encouraged all eight city council members to attend the trip if possible. Porch said that if council members visited the plant it might dispel Keesee's assertion that the plants could be hazards to the environment and the health of people living nearby.

Only one Scott City Council member, Henderson, had asked to be included as of Thursday afternoon. Henderson said he feels taking the trip is his responsibility to the people he represents, though he didn't think the Malta Bend plant would give a good comparison to some of the larger plants that might be constructed in the Scott City area.

A larger plant in Peoria, Ill., owned by Archer Daniels Midland, would be a shorter drive and a more accurate comparison, he said.

According to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, the only local operation with a valid air emissions permit is Bootheel Agri-Energy, which plans to build a 120-million-gallon-per-year plant in Sikeston. Renewable Power had a pending construction permit for operation in Cape Girardeau County. Kansas-based Ethanex Energy and SEMO Milling have a pending construction permit, but SEMO Milling has announced it will no longer partner with Ethanex, but will seek another partner to start an ethanol plant operation.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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