ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston remains firm

Potato processor insists Magnida should move

by Kurtis Workman
Press Staff Writer

Local potato processor ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston is taking a firm stance that the proposed Magnida fertilizer plant should be moved.

ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston spokesperson Shelby Stoolman summarized the company’s complaints.

“As long-time members of the American Falls community, Lamb Weston appreciates the opportunity to share our perspective on Magnida’s proposal to build their plant right next door to the facility we’ve operated for more than 50 years. We support economic development in American Falls, but the safety of our employees is our highest priority, and we do not support the chosen location for the new plant. In addition to concerns about the management of nuisance odor and other potentially undesirable air emissions, emergency preparedness and wastewater, we are concerned about potential effects to water quality in the area. We recently met with Magnida executives in an effort to arrive at a proposal that addressed our specific concerns about potential impact on our facility. Our concerns have not been addressed. We hope to work with Magnida to explore alternate sites for their plant,” said Stoolman.

ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston submitted written comments to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality during the public comment period explaining the company’s concerns about the proposed ammonia producer locating near their facility. Those comments can be found at pages 19 to 23.

Development of the Magnida project, in its current incarnation using natural gas instead of coal at the site near Lamb Weston, has been ongoing for six years. According to Power County Building administrator Bob Steinlicht ConAgra has had opportunity to comment on the project’s location.

“We have held two public hearings and Magnida has hosted numerous public information meetings about the proposal,” Steinlecht said.

Stienlecht said representatives of ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston have made comments at some of the planning and zoning meeting about the project, but nothing suggesting Magnida relocate the plant. Steinlecht also noted that ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston was specifically notified of each public hearing.

“We are legally obligated to notify each adjacent landowner of any property for which a land-use change is being considered. As an adjacent landowner ConAgra/Lamb Weston was notified,” said Steinlecht.

Stoolman said relocating the fertilizer plant is the simplest solution to address ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston’s concerns.

“There are miles of land available for development where Magnida could build, eliminating the potential impact to our business. Why take the risk of impacting a business that has been operating successfully in the community for more than 50 years and employs 600 people, when there is a solution, selecting a location further from our operations, that eliminates this risk,” Stoolman said.

Local grower Jim Tiede owns the ground that may be the home of the Magnida plant. He disagrees with Stoolman’s assessment of “miles and miles of land.”

“Miles and miles of land is not wholly true. A plant like the one Magnida is attempting to build needs several things; power, natural gas, access, and water to operate. The confluence of gas, access, power and water narrows the possibilities by a lot. I don’t know where they think these miles and miles of ground are,” said Tiede.

When asked why ConAgra/Lamb Weston was only now expressing concerns about the Magnida location Stoolman said ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston voiced concerns about the Magnida project nearly five years ago.

“We voiced our concerns in 2009, when the project was first proposed as a coal-powered plant. Leadership from Lamb Weston even met with project leads. That project was abandoned, and never progressed to the point where we were able to review specific plans. Similarly, we’ve been closely following the progression of the current proposal, and when we were approached by Magnida for an easement through our property, we denied the request and shared our concerns. Magnida’s air permit application was the first time we had the opportunity to review any specific information about the project—and we participated in the air permitting process, providing timely comments,” said Stoolman.

While ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston has concerns Tiede said he is satisfied with conclusions of the Magnida’s air permit application.

“I think the Idaho Department of Enviromental Quality has done their due diligence,” said Tiede.

According to Stoolman ConAgra Foods/Lamb Weston does not agree with Tiede, saying the IDEQ overlooked key details before issuing a special use air permit to Magnida.

“The air permit proposal lacks any real detail around how the plant will be built and operated or the product mix they plan to produce, and is missing information we would expect it to have. Our specific concerns were laid out in our public comments. Those concerns went unaddressed before the permit was granted,” said Stoolman.

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