Iowa’s attorney general is suing a corn processing plant, alleging it has released more air pollution than allowed for at least the past 18 months. Filing of the lawsuit came a day after the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News highlighted the state environmental agency’s passivity in curbing emissions at the plant in the Mississippi River town of Muscatine.
“Quite frankly, this lawsuit was surprising,” said Janet Sichterman, a spokesperson for the plant’s owner, Grain Processing Corp. “Normally, we would just resolve the issues between the two of us.”
James Larew, the lawyer representing concerned Muscatine residents who formed a community group earlier this year, said he plans to file a petition asking the judge to give the plant’s neighbors a seat at the negotiating table alongside the state and the company. “We’d at least like to be heard in these negotiations,” he said.
The plant, which processes corn into beverage alcohol, ethanol, starches and syrups, sits on the edge of the town's working-class South End neighborhood, where haze and a pungent odor hang in the air.
At the heart of the case is an air pollution regulation the company, known as GPC, also was accused of violating in 2006. When plants undergo significant expansions or modifications, they must install the best available pollution control equipment and analyze the potential effects on the nearby community’s air.