Claims not enough time given to review Magnida plans
by Kurtis Workman
Press Staff Writer
ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston has taken their opposition to the proposed Magnida fertilizer plant to the next level by filing an appeal of the air permit issued to Magnida by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.
The deadline to appeal the permit was Tuesday, May 27, by 5 p.m. ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston submitted their appeal shortly before the deadline. The completed appeal submitted to IDEQ is over 300 pages long.
IDEQ Regional Administrator Bruce Olenick said after receiving the appeal documents the IDEQ is not involved until a determination has been made by an appeal review committee organized by the Idaho Attorney General’s office.
“We wait until the legal issues have been worked out and then we enforce that ruling,” said Olenick.
Magnida Chairman Ric Sorbo said the appeal was not surprising.
“This is unfortunate, but we were not surprised when we were notified,” said Sorbo.
In the documents filed with IDEQ and previous interviews with The Press, ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston has argued the last minute filing is due to a lack of time for the potato processor to review data submitted to the IDEQ by Magnida.
“As a member of the public, the permit application was not made available for our review until it was filed in March of 2014, at which point we, along with the rest of the public, had 30 days to review it,” said Shelby Stoolman ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston spokesperson.
According to the IDEQ website the over-800 page permit application submitted by Magnida was posted in April of 2013 and revised in October of 2013.
Sorbo said he is confused by ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston’s claim of only 30 days to review the technical specifics of the permit.
“I would challenge their previous comments that they have only recently received the information. The draft permit has been in the public for the past year,” Sorbo said.
Stoolman said the concerns ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston outlined in their appeal filings are too complex to easily explain.
“The specifics are very technical in nature, so an ‘easy-to-read’ list isn’t available. All of our concerns are outlined in the public filings,” said Stoolman.
Another concern expressed by ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston in their public filings is reporting procedures outlined in the Magnida permit. ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston lawyer Erika E. Malmen questioned the lack of oversight in the procedure Magnida would be required to follow in the event of a odor complaint or erroneous leak.
“However the permit does nothing to ensure that once Magnida receives odor complaints – and it likely that it will, given the fertilizer Plant’s components and operation – that it investigates the intensity, frequency or source of the odor to ensure regulatory compliance,” wrote Malmen.
When asked for specific changes ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston would like to see made to the reporting procedure outlined in the current permit Stoolman said the reporting standards are up to Magnida to set.
“Magnida is accountable for outlining these procedures,” said Stoolman.
Sorbo said he is not aware that any of the other projects across the country similar to the Magnida plant are facing opposition, but attempts have been made to address the concerns brought to Magnida leadership.
“We feel we have addressed their concerns. We don’t know there are other, new concerns and we won’t until we have gone through the full appeal document,” said Sorbo.
He also said he is confident the permit will withstand the appeal.
“Through the efforts of the IDEQ and Magnida we have a very strong permit; we have the support of environmental groups in the state. I really don’t see the basis for the appeal,” said Sorbo.
Sorbo said he is still open to talking with ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston.
“We have always offered to continue the dialogue with ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston at any level and that invitation remains open,” said Sorbo.
In spite of the appeal Sorbo said progress is continuing on the project.
“The way this works is the appeal has not been filed against Magnida the appeal has been filed against the state of Idaho and IDEQ. Currently we are not aware of any stay that would prevent us from moving forward. If we were ready we could put shovels in the ground tomorrow,” said Sorbo.
Magnida officials will be hosting a public information meeting Wednesday, June 11, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the American Falls Library to give updates on the progress of the project and to answer questions.