Proposed Ethanol Plant Being Touted by Developers, Criticized by Neighbors

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Last week Cliff Steele received devastating holiday news at his residence of 38 years.

"I don't think I could sell this home to someone else and know this was over there. I don't know how we would live in this area, this close to it," Steele said.

A Schaumburg firm wants to build the region's largest ethanol plant off South Meridian Road west of Rockford, about an eighth of a mile from Steele and other neighbors. Steele is concerned about noise and pollution, concerns the plant's developer downplays.

"The emissions from 17 cars is comparable to what this entire plant will emit. Now, not all of those emissions are pollutants. In fact, very few are pollutants," The Wight Group Vice President John Goebel said.

For the proposed ethanol plant to become a reality, the first step is for the Winnebago County Zoning Board of Appeals to rezone the land, a vote scheduled for January 11. Steele will make his voice heard that night, and hopes many others will follow.

"I want to see everyone in this community down there on the 11th, to protest this. This is something that cannot happen out here in this area," Steele said.

However, developers remain upbeat. They see the ethanol plant as a facility which could boost corn prices, and boost the area with 45 permanent jobs.

"Obviously, they've got a stake in the success of the farm economy in this area, and we hope to have a very significant positive impact on that," Goebel said.

It’s an ethanol plant project which could reap big rewards for stateline corn farmers, while reaping headaches for nearby neighbors.