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Cilion Kern County Ethanol Plant, CA

STATUS: In progress

TYPE: Ethanol

OPPOSITION: NGOs, including Sierra Club and Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment.

PROSPECTS: Likely

BACKGROUND: Production at Cilion Inc.'s 55 MMgy facility, due to open in the Spring of 2009, was threatened by a lawsuit over the county's decision not to require a formal environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to construction. The plant was 50 percent complete when the Valley Advocates issued a legal challenge in late 2007. The plant is located in Keyes, near Modesto.

Valley Advocates have cited air pollution concerns resulting from manufacturing. In April 2007, the Kern County Board of Supervisors put off project consideration for two weeks after Fresno attorney Richard Harriman accused the county of failing to do a good job of evaluating the plant's environmental impacts. Then, On June 7, 2007, the project was dealt a significant setback when Kern County Planning Director Ted James said his staff would recommend that Kern County supervisors require Cilion to conduct a full environmental investigation of the plant. This move substantially delayed Cilion, which had to prepare numerous studies and reports to address county concerns.

In March 2008, the Kern County Board of Supervisors approved the project. However, Sierra Club and the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment disagreed with the decision, saying the air quality impacts of the project are just too high to be balanced by any benefits from building the plant. Ingrid Brostrom of the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment said the county's environmental study failed in a couple major ways. "The EIR does not adequately mitigate the nitrous oxide impacts," she said. "The county did not adequately analyze the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions." Cilion Corp was forced to delay the construction of the plant after residents expressed concerns about groundwater protection, deteriorating air quality and the visual impact of the large ethanol plant. According to Kern County Supervisor Jon McQuiston, the approval process was delayed by six to eight months.

As of July 2010, AE Biofuels, Inc. currently has an agreement in place with Cilion to lease and operate the facility, which was undergoing repairs. Production was scheduled to resume in fall of 2010.

SOURCES:  KGNET.com: http://www.kget.com/news/local/story/Ethanol-plant-approved/JgL8DxauoEiKxMKV2APHTg.cspx;
Bakersfield Californian: http://www.bakersfield.com/news/local/x262462119/Officials-delay-decision-on-proposed-ethanol-plant; http://www.bakersfield.com/news/local/x262462123/Environmental-study-will-delay-ethanol-plant;
Settlement Agreement: http://ag.ca.gov/globalwarming/pdf/Cilion_Agreement.pdf;
AE Biofuels: http://www.aebiofuels.com/facilities.php;
Letter to Stansilus County Board of Supervisors: http://www.stancounty.com/bos/agenda/2010/20100720/Corr01.pdf;
Central Valley Business Times: http://www.centralvalleybusinesstimes.com/stories/001/?ID=8204;
Open Market: http://www.openmarket.org/2008/03/27/across-california-profit-margins-of-ethanol-plants-are-vanishing/

Last updated November 9, 2010