WAHOO – Attorney General Doug Peterson filed a complaint in Saunders County District Court on Monday against AltEn, an ethanol plant in Mead.
The complaint ultimately seeks that AltEn must dispose of the pesticide-ridden distillers grains and wastewater being stored on the property, conform to laws and other orders and deal with civil penalties of $10,000 per day per violation at the court’s discretion, according to a press release issued Monday from the Attorney General’s Office.
Attorney General Doug Peterson said during a press conference on Monday it was one of the largest complaints his office has made in his time as attorney general.
In its 97 pages, the complaint includes 18 causes of action against the ethanol plant including the company’s inability to complete several requests from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.
“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.”
NDEE Director Jim Macy said that the department has heard the concerns of Nebraskans and that the department has taken them seriously.
“I hope those of you listening today can appreciate the work that goes on behind the scene and the effort that the agency and the attorney general has put into this matter,” Macy said.
AltEn has been operating since 2015 utilizing treated seed corn in its ethanol production process. The byproducts of the process, distillers grains and wastewater, have been stored on the AltEn property instead of being utilized as a soil conditioner because of its chemical contents.
AltEn has received several complaints over the years because of these byproducts including orders from the NDEE on Feb. 4 and Feb. 20 to cease operations. The NDEE has been onsite and investigating AltEn throughout February. Macy said during the press conference that the NDEE will continue to be onsite and monitor AltEn’s clean up progress.
The Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 Emergency Response Team was also onsite taking samples and providing aid to NDEE since a frozen pipe burst releasing manure and other materials onto AltEn’s property and surrounding land on Feb. 12.
The Saunders County Board of Supervisors recently ratified a declaration of emergency for the local emergency. The county board was originally scheduled to meet Monday for a public meeting with Mead officials, State Sen. Bruce Bostelman, subject matter experts and NDEE representatives.
Because NDEE declined the county’s invitation, the county board suspended the meeting until NDEE provides the public with updated information. Gov. Pete Ricketts explained during the press conference that Macy was unable to accept the invitation to speak at the meeting because the lawsuit had not been announced.
“Now, with the announcement out there, Jim Macy will be available to accept the invitation from Saunders County folks to be able to come talk to them a little bit more about it,” Ricketts said.
Saunders County Attorney Joe Dobesh said he was very glad to see the complaint filed and that the county will be prepared for a meeting “as soon as director Macy in available.”
Macy said he wholeheartedly supports the Attorney General’s actions and he hopes this will bring a sense of relief.