Muscatine plant ordered to pay record-high penalty

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A Muscatine corn processing facility has been ordered to improve air quality around the plant and to pay a record high penalty.
Iowa Attorney General Thomas Miller said that Grain Processing Corporation (GPC) was ordered to pay a $1.5 million civil penalty and to reduce air pollutant emissions.

The Muscatine plant processes grain into ethanol and feed, industrial, and food products. On site there are hundreds of pieces of equipment that can emit air pollutants.

In 2011 Miller filed a lawsuit against GPC accusing the plant of several air and wastewater violations.

On Thursday, March 27, 2014 Judge Mark D. Cleve signed a consent decree that outlined requirements to correct the environmental hazards. One of the requirements was for the plant to convert its coal-fired boilers to natural-gas fired boilers. It is estimated that this would reduce more than 12,000 tons of air pollutant emissions each year.

A spokesperson from Kent Corp., which owns GPC, said this process would be complete by July 15, 2015.

“Converting the boilers to natural gas will significantly reduce and all but eliminate sulfur dioxide, lead, and other emissions,” said a spokesperson from Kent Corp. “Under the terms of the agreement, the company will undertake additional capital projects and monitor activities to reduce its impact on the environment and improve air quality.”

Also in the decree, GPC was required to implement 10 more air pollution control systems which will create at least 700 tons less of air pollutant emissions each year.

“This is a comprehensive and historic resolution of an environmental enforcement action,” Miller said. “This outcome will go far toward ensuring GPC’s environmental compliance and improving air quality in Muscatine.”

“The amended petition from the AG’s office provided an opportunity for GPC and the DNR to collaboratively develop specific plans to address the full scope of concerns,” said Gage Kent, CEO and Chairman of Kent Corporation.” GPC has and will continue to make a huge commitment of resources to deliver on the promise of air quality improvement.”

It is estimated that the decree will cost the company millions more in capital expenses, operating costs, and increased fuel costs.