Opponents of the proposed Ringneck Energy ethanol plant’s location at Onida, South Dakota were a day short in appealing a county board’s special permit to the plant last year, the South Dakota Supreme Court said in a short opinion issued this week.
The state Supremes’ decision released Wednesday, Sept. 28, denied the appeal of several Onida residents who say the proposed plant’s location poses a threat to them and others and that the conditional use permit issued by the county should be ruled invalid.
The court ruling removed a final obstacle for the $150 million plant’s construction to begin, said Walt Wendland, president and CEO of Ringneck Energy & Feed, LLC.
“This ruling comes on top of the final approval for an air permit issued and signed by the state Board of Minerals and Environment on the 15th of September,” Wendland told the Capital Journal on Thursday. “So this kind of removes all the obstacles we have for construction.”
The state board voted to grant the air quality permit on Aug. 18, but hadn’t issued the signed, official permit until Sept. 15, Wendland said.
The state Supreme Court’s ruling announced this week came from an appeal by 11 Onida petitioners: Steve Hyde, Kathy Hyde, Clark Guthmiller, Lisa Guthmiller, Warren Wilson, Sherri Wilson, Richard Hyde, Cheryl Hyde, Jim Thibodeau, Dan Leonard and Larry Willcox.
They live virtually across the road from the site of the proposed plant, which is just south of nida.
For nearly two years, the neighboring residents have fought the site, saying they welcome the idea of a new ethanol plant near Onida but that the proposed site is too close to town and especially to them, for environmental and safety reasons.
In a county-wide vote forced by the neighboring opponents, the plant and it’s location was approved by 79 percent of voters in June 2015.
This state high court ruling stems from the group, which hired Aberdeen attorney Adam Altman, sueing the county’s board of adjustment – which is comprised of the five county commissioners – and Ringneck a year ago.
The petitioners said that the commissioners had illegally issued a conditional permit to Ringneck allowing it build and operate the plant just south of Onida. After a July 20, 2015 county board decision to grant the permit, the county board met Aug. 20, 2015 and revised the minutes, adding some language to the conditions of the permit.
The petitioners sued in state court, over the revision of the minutes and also on the substance of the reasons for granting the permit to Ringneck.
In October 2015, state Judge John Brown heard the case and in November 2015, denied the appeal, ruling that the petitioners missed the 30-day window set by state law for such an appeal by one day.
The state Supremes agreed with Brown, saying because the appeal was late by a day, the other issues raised by the petitioners didn’t need to be addressed.
Attempts on Thursday to reach the opponents of the plant’s location and their attorney, Altman, were unsuccessful.
Sully County Commissioners met Thursday to finalize the 2017 budget and talked informally about the court decision, said Commission Chair Bill Floyd.
But they hadn’t had a chance yet to read the decision, he said. All the controversy led the Commission earlier this year to decide to refer all reporters’ questions on the ethanol plant issue to Sully County State’s Attorney Emily Sovell.
On Thursday, Sovell said she had only had a chance to brief the Commissioners briefly on the court ruling so far.
“At this point, we don’t know what the other side plans to do,” Sovell said. “There is the potential of a re-hearing, but I don’t know that we expect that.”
Wendland’s plans include “start pouring concrete,” by late October at the site, “before winter sets in.”
“We have moved from phase 1 for site preparation to the railroad,” he said on Thursday of the site next to the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad. “The railroad (siding) dirt work is complete and they are actually going to start building the rail siding tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, he is “tying up loose ends,” in finishing off the financial piece of the proposed plant, Wendland said.
The several months of delay with the site’s opponents challenging the state air permit as well as the county’s conditional use permit didn’t help his campaign to attract investors, Wendland said. He’s been holding investor meetings around the state and the larger region for about 13 months.
The initial proposed cost of the plant was $140 million to build a facility that would use corn and perhaps milo to produce 70 million gallons of ethanol a year.
Now the proposed cost has been ratcheted up to $150 million, Wendland said.
Meanwhile, the delays allowed for some more engineering and design by Ringneck so that the plant now will start off producing at the rate of 80 million gallons a year, he said.
From the first, the plan was to build it so that it easily could be expanded up to a capacity of 100 million gallons.
He’s said his financing campaign is to raise about $74 million, including $61 million in equity investors’ money, the $3 million raised as “seed money,” to get the whole idea moving and $10 million from issuing tax-free municipal bonds.
The plan is to have the plant completed and operating by late 2017 or early 2018, Wendland said.
“We are hopeful by the end of October we can see our way to get started with full construction.”
This articles was originally posted at: http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/bdigest/2016/10/03/south-dakota-supreme-court-paves-the-way-for-ringneck-energy-to-start-construction/ on