[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]

E-M:/ Liberty Renewable Fuels: Sierra Club calls for Public Review of All Environmental Impacts

Media Statement

For Immediate Release

30 January 2007


Ithaca Ethanol Plant Air Permit Hearing Draws 150

Sierra Club calls for Public Review of All Environmental Impacts




Alex Sagady 517-332-6971

Rita Jack 517-484-2372


Sierra Club, allied organizations, and citizens are calling for the state to perform comprehensive environmental review of the Liberty Renewable Fuels proposed ethanol plant in Ithaca.  At a public hearing yesterday on a proposed air pollution permit for the operation, the organizations asked the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to require public disclosure and comment on the whole range of potential impacts to Michigan’s natural resources. 


According to Rita Jack, Water Sentinel Project Director for the Sierra Club, because of the scope of the project and the range of issues, “the proposed issuance of the air discharge permit for Liberty Renewable Fuels (ethanol plant) is a Major State Decision”, that under Michigan law and the Michigan Constitution, requires a process of comprehensive environmental review of the consequences of pollution, impairment, and destruction of Michigan’s natural resources, the public’s trust placed on these natural resources, the consideration of reasonable alternatives to the proposed action, and an MDEQ final finding and determination as to these matters.  These “consequences have not been subjected to an open public process of comprehensive review”, stated Jack.    


In addition to the proposed air discharge permit, environmental consultant Alex J. Sagady said the Liberty Renewable Fuels’ proposed 121 million gallon capacity ethanol plant would be one of the largest in the Midwest, using groundwater at a rate of 1200 gallons per minute from three on-site 12 inch wells drilled 400 feet deep – a potential consumption of 630 million gallons per year.  Of the 630 million gallons of groundwater, about 340 million gallons per year would be lost from the Great Lakes Basin by evaporation.  By comparison, pumping operations by the Minnesota Granite Falls Energy ethanol plant have already drained their water supply aquifer by half in less than a year, and state officials there claim they’ll have to shut down if they cannot find an alternate water source. 


At yesterday’s hearing in Ithaca, Sagady revealed a previously undisclosed plan by Liberty Renewable Fuels to double their operation, that would double the amount of groundwater pumping, putting at risk area wells and streams that rely on groundwater for base flow.  It’s not clear what that groundwater pumping might do to municipal wastewater ponds located just west of US 127.


Remarkably, groundwater use could be lessened if an alternative means of energy dissipation was used, or a mix of alternate means were considered.  Yet none of these reasonable alternatives have been considered by either Liberty Renewable Fuels or by the MDEQ, and it’s not been presented to the public.  Additionally, the review process has so far neglected to properly characterize environmental impacts from the large amount of greenhouse gases, on the order of 500-600 thousand tons per year of carbon dioxide, an unknown amount of methane and ethane from fermentation processes. 


As yet, Liberty Renewable Fuels has not applied for the water discharge permit that will also be required for their ethanol plant, yet documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission disclose plans to discharge cooling water to Brady Creek, part of the Bad River watershed.  Cooling water usually contains toxic chemicals used to kill algae and other additives to maintain cooling-tower integrity during operations, so discharge of this water will need to be controlled through a water discharge permit. 


Sagady described the previously undisclosed site plan during his public comments at yesterday’s hearing.  The additional site plan indicates future doubling of all the process equipment and the production capability of the facility, and a likely of all environmental and community impacts.  After the site plan was described, a representative from Liberty Renewable Fuels stated “if things are going well in two to three years, then we’ll expand.”  No aspects of these plans had been revealed to the public or local officials, yet should be a major factor for consideration of the impact of the eventual plant configuration.  In the 1980s, comprehensive review was performed by the Michigan Environmental Review Board.  No process exists for this function today, yet it’s sorely needed.


Detailed comments on the Liberty Renewable Fuels ethanol production facility proposed for Ithaca in Gratiot County are located at http://www.sagady.com/workproduct/LASERCommentLibertyRenewableFuels.pdf, they were prepared for Legal & Safety Employer Research, Inc., Sierra Club Michigan Chapter, and the Concerned Citizens of Gratiot County