Court Rules Indiana Ethanol Plants Exceeded Pollution Limits

Published June 28, 2013

Two ethanol plants in Indiana violated federal pollution limits, an Indiana appellate court ruled. According to the court, Indiana Department of Environmental Management officials improperly classified the ethanol processing plants to avoid pollution limits applicable to chemical process plants.

Federal pollution laws limit chemical process plants to 100 tons of air pollutants each year. The ethanol plants in question, owned by Poet Biorefining, emitted substantially more than 100 tons of pollution each year. Indiana Department of Environmental Management (DEM) officials reclassified the ethanol plants to avoid the definition of a chemical process plant, allowing the ethanol plants to emit more than double the air pollutants applicable to chemical process plants.

The Natural Resources Defense Council sued, alleging Indiana DEM officials improperly reclassified the ethanol plants.

The appellate court unanimously ruled Indiana DEM did improperly reclassify the plants to circumvent federal air pollution restrictions. The court stated federal rules do not authorize Indiana DEM officials to reclassify the ethanol plants without first obtaining permission from the EPA. 

Craig Ladwig, editor of Indiana Policy Review, said it is ironic the ethanol industry seeks special exemptions from air pollution laws while claiming to benefit air quality.

Ethanol emits more of certain air pollutants than gasoline while emitting less of other air pollutants.
“It would appear to be hypocrisy on top of fraud,” said Ladwig.

Karen Dove ([email protected]) is a freelance writer in Bradenton, Florida.