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EPA Loosens Ethanol Plant Rules

Ethanol production is ramping in Kentucky and elsewhere in the U.S. Two plants operate here now, and three more large facilities--producing more than 50 million gallons a year each--are planned.The Natural Resources Defense Council says it’s concerned new rules governing air pollution from ethanol plants are too weak. Plants emitting two 250 tons or more of smog-causing pollutants per year must have pollution controls. The limit used to be 100 tons."So in effect, the EPA is allowing these plants to be more than twice as dirty as the law previously allowed before controls were required," said NRDC attorney John Walke.The EPA declined to comment on tape. But it said in a written statement that the new rule will provide equal treatment for all facilities that produce ethanol – regardless of whether it’s a distillery or a refinery. But Walke argues that an ethanol refinery is much harder on the environment than, for example, a whiskey distillery.