The League of Women Voters of Nebraska continues to be concerned about the ongoing environmental disaster caused by AltEn Ethanol in Mead. We are greatly concerned for our fellow Nebraskans and the surrounding ecosystems that have been poisoned. Information shared by the media on Feb. 9 — that the state of Nebraska approved unprecedented use of pesticide-laden seed corn — underscores our request for urgent action.
We have learned that on July 26, 2012, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (now Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy) approved AltEn’s request for a change to their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.
According to the permit request, this granted AltEn the “ability to utilize discarded ‘treated’ seed in the ethanol production process in addition to and/or in lieu of traditional grain feedstock. The majority of the discarded seed will be treated with herbicides and pesticides prior to AltEn taking possession.” It states in the request that “wet distillers grain (WDG) will no longer be sent to the adjacent feedlot as the chemical treatments render WDG unsuitable for livestock feed.”
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In 2018, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture allowed the use of WDG to be applied to fields as a “soil conditioner.” In March 2019, NDA tested the material and in April 2019 ordered the firm to cease and desist its use on fields.
Why didn’t the NDA test the wet cake before it was allowed to be applied to the land?
On March 1, 2021, in the NDEE lawsuit complaint in State of Nebraska v. AltEn, the state tells the court something quite different: “The Department discovered in 2015 that AltEn was using discarded seed corn that had been treated with pesticides as its feedstock rather than normal field corn. The Department, however, did not know until 2018 that the byproducts from AltEn’s ethanol production could contain measurable residues of pesticides.”
This problem has been allowed to continue for far too long, especially at the expense of those it impacts directly. In a Feb. 7, 2022, letter to each Nebraska state senator, the League of Women Voters of Nebraska asked them to act with a sense of urgency and prioritize creating a special committee, protecting the victims, initiating safe clean-up solutions, conducting long-term research, and establishing safeguards to never allow this to happen again.
The League supports LR159, “Request the Executive Board to appoint an AltEn LLC, Ethanol Plant Special Investigative and Oversight Committee,” to study and investigate the timelines, records, rules, products, drinking water and costs associated. AltEn is a statewide problem that requires a whole-state investigation to be sure that our environmental laws are strong enough to stop entities like AltEn.
We support LB1102 “to adopt the Nebraska Environmental Response Act and change provisions relating to enforcement of environmental protection requirements.” We also support LB694 with the amendment “to provide a statute of limitations for exposure to certain chemicals, prescription drugs or medical devices.”
AltEn is a complex problem that requires multidisciplinary research not limited to plant, animal and human life. Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln believe it would take 10 years and $10 million to do a complete analysis. Obviously, this is an urgent request that must be fulfilled. Thus, we support LR277 for an interim study to protect and manage vulnerable pollinators that are in decline as a result of this harmful situation.
Additionally, the League asks the Nebraska attorney general to move forward with the AltEn lawsuit, filed March 1, 2021. And we request that the NDEE schedule a public hearing to receive public comment on the AltEn Facility Response Group Remedial Action Plan filed with the agency on Nov. 1, 2021.
Quality of the land, air and water have all been compromised. Our neighbors deserve human dignity and healthy lives. Environmental stewardship and hazardous waste remediation are key components for long-term solutions, not Band-Aid shells and leaky liners. Citizen-led organizations are doing everything in their power to advocate for the best outcome. We need our elected representatives to use every option in their toolkits to make this better.
Midlands Voices January 2022
Darryl Brown Jr. writes: "Nuance belongs in the conversation around abortion; our faith does not always require an 'either/or' mentality."
Gov. Pete Ricketts writes: "State law declares 'the will of the people of the State of Nebraska and the members of the Legislature to provide protection for the life of the unborn child whenever possible."
Gwenn Aspen writes: Will a candidate be a leader who will stand with voters, or will they stand with authoritarians?
David G. Brown writes: "The City of Omaha has taken a giant step forward in providing new dynamic infrastructure that will bring more people, companies and jobs to the very heart of our community."
A Russian invasion of Ukraine would be felt throughout the world, directly threatening Poland and the Baltic States and unsettling global economies.
Ron Jensen writes: "I have no doubt that the political parties would like to have more to say about who serves in our Legislature, as well as what they do when they get there. But Nebraskans have only to look at the U.S. Congress to understand how well that would serve the public interest."
Rebecca Fahrlander writes: "Chain letters, like today's social media chain posts, usually involved some concern or superstition around fate, bad fortune, illness, etc. Breaking the chain could bring bad luck. They were fake before we had fake news."
Andi Curry Grubb writes: "Those who strongly oppose abortion have spread misinformation, creating harmful stigma and shaming people who have had abortions into silence. This has left a vacuum that the vocal minority has used to push its narrow, ideological agenda against abortion to the tipping point."
Polling shows strong support for conservation easements in Nebraska.
State. Sen. Steve Lathrop writes that dealing with incarceration growth "will take a new approach to criminal justice using strategies that can actually reduce recidivism, protect public safety and rein in prison growth."
Nationally, other states are doing a better job of protecting their children than Nebraskans are. This must change.
he mandate enacted by Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse is an absolutely necessary measure; however, it is important to emphasize that masks are only one part of the solution.
State Sen. Tom Brewer and John R. Lott Jr. write: "Much will remain unchanged with constitutional carry. Businesses and private property owners still have the right to exclude guns from their premises. Prohibitions remain in sensitive places, and laws about gun misuse are unchanged. Nebraskans must still be able to legally own a gun to carry it."
"Colorado’s plans to siphon off water from the South Platte River would decrease agricultural water supplies and raise pumping costs for our residents," Gov. Pete Ricketts writes.
State Sen. John McCollister writes: "Republican voters have been so pumped full of lies from conservative talk radio, Fox News and conspiracy outlets like OANN, that any law is then seen as some draconian overreach of government power."
The RNC could act as a barrier to the Cult of Trump and set the party on a sane and responsible course. But it hasn’t, and probably won’t.
But it has happened before.
Vaccines continue to remain the No. 1 preventative measure to combat COVID. We need every eligible Nebraskan to get fully vaccinated and boosted to protect each other.
Madison Kinkaid writes: "As the world continues to warm, we look to new energy sources to fuel our needs."
Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold writes: "Based on recent GCHS success in leveraging investments to receive competitive grants and contracts, an independent outside economic impact projection shows that the state’s one-time investment would create 220 high-wage, high-skill, high-demand jobs statewide."
While the role of Omaha may have been brief, its status as a gateway to the west and pivotal role in providing the logistical support made its contribution critical to the success of the hunt.
State Sen. Mike Flood says he hopes to advance further pro-life legislation during the 2022 legislative session.
Pat Loontjer writes: "The economic impact and jobs casinos claim are not in addition to existing local economic activity but in place of it. Gambling dollars do not drop from the sky. They come from local gamblers whose spending patterns change when slot machines move in, at the expense of local business receipts."
The last two years have taught us that we don’t have the luxury of working in silos any longer.
Kenneth Keith writes: "We once again have the opportunity to rise to the occasion, to come together in the face of adversity."
Gov. Pete Ricketts: "On behalf of all Nebraskans, thank you to members of the Nebraska National Guard for your dedicated service to our state."
Today, our state and our nation both face pressing needs for which the University of Nebraska at Omaha is in a strategic position to provide solutions.