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LB 507 advances unopposed
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LB 507 advances unopposed

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LINCOLN – A legislative bill preventing the use of treated seed corn in the ethanol production process was advance on last Thursday with 43 lawmakers voting in support of the bill.

Legislative Bill 507 was introduced back in January of this year by District 23 Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard and had its first public hearing in the Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 3. Because of the emergency clause, the ruling will be enacted when signed by Gov. Pete Ricketts. 

The bill comes as a result of issues at AltEn, an ethanol facility located in Mead. The use of treated seed corn in AltEn’s process has resulted in a stock pile of chemical-ridden byproduct also known as distillers grain. 

The distillers grain was originally meant to be utilized for animal feed or soil conditioner, but because of the high levels of chemicals in the ethanol byproduct it is too poisonous. As a result, the distillers grain and wastewater, the byproducts of the ethanol process, have been stored on the AltEn property. 

Starting March 5, the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy began using a biochar unit belonging to Greenrecycle Solutions on AltEn’s property to dispose of the distiller’s grain being stored.

AltEn has received several complaints over the years because of these byproducts including complaints from the NDEE on Feb. 4 and Feb. 20 ordering the company to cease operations. 

The NDEE has been onsite and investigating AltEn throughout February since these orders were made and a frozen pipe burst on Feb. 12. The burst caused manure and other materials to be released from a digester tank onto AltEn and surrounding properties. These materials traveled through various waterways surrounding the facility. 

  During a press conference on March 1, NDEE Director Jim Macy said NDEE will continue to oversee AltEn’s cleanup process. In this press conference it was also announced that the Nebraska Attorney General’s office filed a complaint in Saunders County district court against AltEn. 

The 97-page complaint cites 18 charges against AltEn with a fine of $10,000 per charge each day at the court’s discretion. 

“The corporation failed to act during an administrative process,” Peterson said during the press conference. “They chose, really because of poor management, to ignore those orders.” 

Following a scheduled town hall meeting on April 6 in Mead (see story on Page 1), the University of Nebraska Medical Center will begin a comprehensive study on the potential effects AltEn has had on the environment, wildlife and participating Mead residents. Dr. Elli Rogan, UNMC Department of Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health chair, is leading the study. 

The study will look into hospital records to see if there are high amounts of adverse health effects and will start a registry so UNMC can track Mead residents throughout the coming years. 

Initial results could be ready as early as fall of this year.

“We are really pushing this work, at least this initial work, done and get information out to the community,” Rogan said.

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