Agreement settles Sparta ethanol plant controversy

Saturday, March 22, 2008

From an article by Steve Calahan in the La Crosse Tribune:

SPARTA, Wis. — Century Foods International will buy the proposed 83.7-acre Sparta ethanol plant site from Coulee Area Renewable Energy LLC.

CARE will not build an ethanol plant within three miles of Century Foods’ Sparta plants.

And all lawsuits filed during the yearlong fight over the proposed site will be dismissed.

Those are highlights of a 15-page settlement agreement the Sparta City Council approved Tuesday night.

Besides the city, Century Foods and parent company Hormel Foods Corp., CARE and Friends of Sparta — a citizens group that opposed the proposed Sparta ethanol plant — are parties to the agreement as well. All of the parties were plaintiffs and/or defendants in lawsuits over the site.

CARE President Dave Rundahl declined to comment Tuesday on the agreement, or on whether his group still plans to build an ethanol plant at another location. He did say CARE still has an option to buy land near Bangor, Wis.

In December, CARE filed a lawsuit in Monroe County Circuit Court that claimed Century Foods and Hormel breached terms of an October settlement that called for Century Foods to buy CARE’s Sparta site at an agreed price. The lawsuit said the two companies breached the agreement by insisting on a new condition — that CARE board members agree not to allow an ethanol plant on land they personally own.

In the December lawsuit, CARE asked that Century Foods be required to buy the Sparta site under the terms in the settlement agreement. The site is near Century Foods’ largest Sparta plant.

In its answer to the lawsuit, Century Foods said the October settlement memorandum was a non-binding “agreement to agree” and was subject to conditions that never occurred.

Under Tuesday’s agreement, Century Foods will pay $2.5 million for the Sparta land and for other rights.