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Fufeng USA pledges to use technology to avoid environmental problems at Grand Forks corn wet milling plant

A major concern of the opponents of the Fufeng project has been concerns about air quality and water issues. The company says it has invested more than $50 million during the past three years to improve environmental protection technologies across its facilities.

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Fufeng Group USA Chief Operating Officer Eric Chutorash meets with the Local Government Advisory Committee, which includes select members from all four of Grand Forks’ property-taxing groups Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.
Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The Chinese company wanting to build a corn wet milling plant at Grand Forks has a history of odor and air pollution violations in China, but Fufeng Group Ltd. will not have the same environmental problems here, pledged Eric Chutorash, Fufeng USA chief operationing officer.

Fufeng Group, a Chinese agribusiness, announced plans in the fall of 2021 to build a corn wet milling plant to Grand Forks. The company has said the plant would bring more than 220 jobs to Grand Forks and use as much as 25 million bushels of corn per year. While supporters of the plant have cheered those numbers, opponents have brought up national security and environmental concerns.

A major concern of the opponents of the project — especially those who live near where the project will be built on 370 acres in Falconer Township and residents of north Grand Forks — has been concerns about air quality and water issues.

Reports from the Institute of Environment and Public Affairs in China and in the country’s newspapers have documented about 30 environmental violations at Fufeng plants during the past decade.

However, Chutorash told Agweek through a prepared statement from Flint Group, in Fargo, which Fufeng USA has hired to answer questions about the company, that Fufeng Group has invested more than $50 million during the past three years to improve environmental protection technologies across its facilities.

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“The Fufeng USA wet corn milling facility is being designed by highly skilled, local U.S. engineers who will implement the leading environmental technology to mitigate odor and air pollution concerns and will meet the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality regulations and the Clean Air Act,” Chutorash said in his statement.

The company also is working with the City of Grand Forks to meet the community’s expectations and all Environmental Protection Agency standards will be followed, he said.

The Grand Forks plant design will be modeled after its Longjiang plant, which is the company’s newest facility launched in 2018, Chutorash's statement said.

“Longjiang has the same finished product mix and has an impeccable safety and environmental record,” his statement said.

Meanwhile, Fufeng USA also plans to provide its employees with the most up-to-date environmental training programs, Chutorash's statement said.

Environmental record

Fufeng Ltd.'s environmental record has been documented in news reports and by the Institute of Environment and Public Affairs , a nonprofit organization based in Beijing that has developed pollution databases to monitor corporate environmental performance and to facilitate public participation in environmental governance.

Fufeng facilities have accumulated a number of violations, according to Michael Standaert, a journalist with 12 years of experience reporting from China for Bloomberg Industry Group. For much of that time, Standaert specialized in coverage of environmental policy and industrial emissions, and he provided this information of past reports of environmental problems at Fufeng facilities in China:

  • Inner Mongolia Fufeng Biological Technology Co., Ltd.: This branch of the company has had 21 records related to violations since 2005:
    • On January 10, 2020, after the municipal government issued the orange warning for air pollution: "You (the unit) committed the following environmental violations: Your company did not implement the orange warning to reduce production load and prohibit the use of heavy-duty vehicles of China IV and below for material transportation Regulation." Fine: 100,000 yuan. (One Chinese yuan is worth about 15 cents in U.S. dollars.)
    • In 2019, "Your company's pollution prevention and control facilities are not operating normally." Fine: 100,000 yuan.
    •  In 2019: "Your company's automatic monitoring facilities are not operating normally." Fine: 20,000 yuan.
    •  In 2019: Your company's pollution prevention and control facilities are not operating normally. Fine: 100,000 yuan.
    • The facility had 10 violations in 2018, including the following:
      • "Your company did not control the discharge of gaseous pollutants." Fine: 200,000 yuan.
      • "Your company did not recycle the combustible gas. The above behavior of your (unit) violates the first paragraph of Article 49 of the 'Air Pollution Prevention and Control Law of the People's Republic of China,' which states 'The combustible gas generated by industrial production, landfill or other activities shall be recycled, and there are no conditions for recycling, pollution prevention and treatment should be carried out.'" Fine: 50,000 yuan. 
      • "Your company’s slag and gypsum were not stored in a fully enclosed manner as required, cause dust pollution." Fine: 100,000 yuan. 
  • Xinjiang Fufeng Biological Technology Co., Ltd.: This branch of the company had 12 violations between 2014 and 2018. The most recent, in 2018: "Your unit's factory boundary odor concentration exceeds the standard." Fine: 200,000 yuan.
  • Jiangsu Shenhua Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.: No violations were recorded on the IPE site. However, there was an explosion at Jiangsu Shenhua Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of Fufeng in 2019, in which one person died and eight were injured.
Related Topics: AGRICULTURECROPSCORN
Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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