Wisconsin ethanol plant pays fine, saves jobs and lenders

By Chris Hanson | March 13, 2014

Marquis Energy-Wisconsin LLC will pay $125,000 to the Juneau County Circuit Court as part of a settlement for violating Wisconsin’s air pollution control laws at its Necedah facility.

The complaint, filed at the request of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, claimed the facility failed to obtain air pollutant source construction permits until Nov. 2012, after acquiring the facility from Castle Rock Renewable Fuels in July 2012. Additionally, the DNR asserted the facility violated emission limits and other air pollution control requirements, such as the maximum production limit in its permit and operating within approved temperatures.

Marquis Energy responded to a press release from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which provided more thorough understanding of the situation. The previous owners allowed the construction and operating permits to expire. Furthermore, the facility was in default with its lenders and bondholders from the City of Necedah, explained Mark Marquis, president of Marquis Energy. During the first 30 days of ownership, Marquis Energy identified the emission issues, ordered the needed equipment, applied for the proper permits and began to bring the facility into compliance.

During the time between ownership and the final permits being approved, the operators kept the plant running to secure the local jobs and generate income to satisfy lenders and bondholders. “It took 144 days before all those permits were issued and everything was satisfied,” said Marquis. “We just want to clear that up. In our view, we rescued this plant, kept the lenders from losing a lot of money, the bondholders we satisfied all their past debt and kept all the jobs in place, and made the plant profitable and in compliance with its permits. We think that’s a big victory for everybody.”

“I knew there was going to be a fine for what the previous owners had neglected up there,” said Marquis. “I thought it was better to pay this fine and save the jobs, the lenders and the corn market for the farmers to make the plant a profitable business, not just for my family, but also for those people I just mentioned.”

None of the violations were a risk to human health, Marquis added. “After we bought the plant, there wasn’t any risk to human health. There was just a lapse in paperwork by the previous owners that took us 144 days to get that back in place.”