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Groups Hoping to 'Clear the Air' Over Site of Clovis Ethanol Plant

December 24, 2007

Clovis, NM – With the slogan 'clean, but not mean,' concerned citizens in Clovis are saying the state's clean energy program is all very well, but authorities had better be sure a planned ethanol plant does not harm a minority neighborhood.

Bruce Frederick, a lawyer with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center is representing groups appealing a state permit for the plant on the edge of town. They worry it could threaten health and quality of life for nearby residents, and Frederick says the location raises questions about environmental justice.

"Clovis is predominantly white, probably 90 percent, and where they're locating this plant is in a predominantly minority neighborhood."

The state Environment Department granted an air quality permit to ConAgra in May to build the plant, but the citizens' groups have appealed. Frederick believes the permitting process violates the Civil Rights Act, and says the state should set a precedent by protecting the rights of minority communities. He explains many residents who have testified at hearings don't object to the plant, but would prefer that it be built in the town's industrial park.

"People aren't opposed to economic development, they're just opposed to having such a major industrial facility basically across the street from their houses or a short distance from their houses."

The Environment Department says the permit for the ethanol plant was issued with stipulations to address many citizen concerns, including dust, air and noise pollution. Earlier this month, the state Environmental Improvement Board voted to hold another hearing on the proposal in early 2008.

Eric Mack/John Robinson, Public News Service - NM