Grain Processing Corp. fined $1.5 million; ordered to comply with air permit regulations

Grain Processing Corporation (GPC) has agreed to a record $1.5 million fine and ordered to hire an independent firm to conduct a comprehensive environmental audit of its Muscatine corn-processing facility to assure compliance with federal and state environmental laws.

The consent decree approved Thursday (3/27) by a Muscatine County judge resolves a lawsuit filed by the Iowa Attorney General in December 2011, and addresses air and water pollution violations cited by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) as far back as 2009.

The Muscatine firm, owned by Kent Corporation, announced a $100-million capital improvement program for the GPC plant after the lawsuit was filed, and in its news release Thursday promised the plant upgrades will reduce air emissions "well below the newest and more stringent air quality standards now set by the EPA."

The company also said when its new corn-drying facility is complete, "smoke, odor, and haze will be nearly eliminated" at the facility.

Muscatine has been designated as in "non-attainment" for fine particulate (PM 2.5) pollution by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2013, of the 14 exceedances of air quality standards for PM 2.5 statewide, seven were recorded in Muscatine. For the same period, all 67 exceedances of air quality standards for sulfur dioxide (SO2) statewide were recorded in Muscatine.

Also part of the deal with the attorney general and the lawsuit intervenor – Clean Air Muscatine, Inc. (CLAM) – is a provision requiring GPC convert its boilers from coal to natural gas. That change would lower air pollutant emissions by more than 12,000 tons annually, according to the attorney general's office. Ten other air emission control upgrades agreed to as part of the settlement are expected to lower air pollution emissions by another 700 tons per year.

The requirement that GPC hire a third party independent auditor also is unprecedented in such cases.

The environmental audit firm must be approved by the IDNR and "shall not be an employee of GPC or have any current for former financial interest in GPC." The audit will "identify any actual or potential environmental hazards and/or violations of federal or state environmental statutes, regulations, permits, or orders; and recommend appropriate corrective and/or preventative action at GPC's corn-processing facility."

Moreover, the reports of the audit firm will be available to the public and not covered by the state "Environmental Audit Privilege and Immunity" statute which allows for confidentiality of such information.

The EPA filed a notice of violation against GPC in early 2012 alleging many of the same air pollution violations covered by the state lawsuit. Resolution of the state case would make a federal lawsuit unnecessary.

CLICK HERE to download a copy of the GPC consent decree.

CLICK HERE to read the news release from the Iowa Attorney General's Office.

CLICK HERE to read the news release from Kent Corporation.

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