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Residents petition for environmental assessment on RDO expansion in Minnesota

CALLAWAY, Minn. - Residents of north-central Minnesota have filed a petition calling on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to require an environmental review of industrial potato producer RD Offutt's planned expansion in the region, wh...

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CALLAWAY, Minn. - Residents of north-central Minnesota have filed a petition calling on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to require an environmental review of industrial potato producer RD Offutt’s planned expansion in the region, which would use more than 166.4 million gallons of water per year.

The DNR, concerned about the impacts of deforestation, groundwater depletion and heavy pesticide and fertilizer use, initially ordered an environmental review of the company’s plans to drill 54 new wells. But after RDO protested, the DNR struck a deal with the company to drop the requirement in exchange for scaling back the project. Instead, the department will work with Offutt on a taxpayer-funded study that will have no impact on the potato producer’s plans to expand.

Toxic Taters, a grassroots organization based in Callaway, Minn., that works throughout the potato-growing areas of Minnesota, called the deal between the DNR and RDO a mistake, and filed a petition calling for an environmental assessment worksheet Nov. 19. Along with filing the petition calling for the EAW, Toxic Taters and allied organizations including the Land Stewardship Project are calling on the DNR to hold a public hearing in the affected region regarding the project. Until this point, no state agency has solicited public comments on the issue, and no plans have been announced to request input from the public.

Dave Butcher, a farmer from Pequot Lakes, Minn., and member of Land Stewardship Project, helped collect signatures. “It’s not right for a corporation to be able to control its own regulatory process,” he says. “We need to make sure when projects like this come in that they’re really looking at the potential damage, and that there’s a chance for public input. This study wouldn’t do that.”

Toxic Taters Coordinator Amy Mondloch expressed concern that the agreement reached between RDO and the DNR is a failure for the state. “The EAW is the proven public process our state has to determine if projects like this are environmentally safe. We believe that the DNR has a responsibility to the public to use that process to hold corporations accountable. The agreement that RDO and the DNR have made is a failure to live up to that responsibility.”

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To read the full text of the petition, visit http://bit.ly/EAWpetition .

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