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MUSCATINE  — The group Clean Air Muscatine will have to wait a few weeks before learning whether it can participate during regulatory proceedings between the Iowa Attorney General’s Office and Grain Processing Corp.

Attorneys representing both CLAM and GPC, which is being sued by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller on five allegations, including emissions exceeding authorized amounts, argued their cases for and against CLAM intervention Tuesday afternoon in Muscatine County District Court. They appeared before Judge Bobbi M. Alpers, chief judge of Iowa’s Seventh Judicial District.

Attorney James Larew of Iowa City, who is representing CLAM at what he said was “a greatly reduced rate” and who has yet to submit a bill to the nonprofit group, argued that CLAM has standing — a legal stake or interest — in the regulatory proceedings because some of its 115 members have been harmed by GPC emissions.

“It’s a population with breathing problems, attributable and exacerbated by GPC,” Larew said.

Larew asked Alpers for these remedies:

n More air-quality monitoring devices.

n Appointment of a special master to help carry out whatever the court orders the company to do as a result or settlement of the lawsuit.

n That GPC consider using alternates to coal for use in its burners.

n Imposition of civil penalties that the company can’t view as “the cost of doing business.” Such penalties would serve as a deterrence to other companies as well, he said.

“GPC employs a lot of people and pays them good wages, but they can do that without being a burden on those people here today,” Larew said, a reference to the 25 or so CLAM members present at the hearing.

Representing GPC were Kelsey Knowles and Mike Reck with the Des Moines law firm of Belin McCormick.

Knowles told the judge that CLAM’s claims are outside the scope of the suit against the company, in terms of the time period cited and which chemicals were emitted.

“A number of (Muscatine) entities emit (gasses), and not illegally,” she said. “(CLAM’s) allegations are not germane to the state’s case.”

CLAM must also prove, she said, that the state cannot achieve the result it seeks — reduced emissions and timely reporting on the part of GPC — without CLAM’s participation.

If CLAM were to add the impacts that industrial emissions may have had on its members, “that would greatly expand the scope” of the present inquiry, she said.

After the 90-minute hearing, Alpers asked David Sheridan, who runs the environmental law division of the attorney general’s office, to delay setting a trial date until after she’s made her ruling on CLAM’s motion.

“I intend to work at it and get the ruling out as soon as possible,” she said, perhaps within the next six weeks. 

Afterward, Jessica Brackett, CLAM’s executive director, said she believed that Larew demonstrated “that the people of Muscatine do deserve to have their voice heard. We eagerly await the judge’s decision.”

“I’m very happy we’re making progress,” said Bonnie Adkins, CLAM’s board secretary.

Both Knowles and Reck declined comment.

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