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Local effects of biodiesel

District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, sits in on a presentation on the REG biodiesel refinery south of Albert Lea Tuesday. - Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

District 27A Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, sits in on a presentation on the REG biodiesel refinery south of Albert Lea Tuesday. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Lawmakers on two agriculture committees tour biodiesel facility

Two Minnesota House agriculture committees got a first-hand look into the biodiesel industry in southern Minnesota Tuesday afternoon.

Members of the Minnesota House Agriculture Finance Committee and the Minnesota House Agriculture Policy Committee, including Rep. Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea, toured the Renewable Energy Group biodiesel refinery south of Albert Lea Tuesday afternoon.

Bennett said the tour was a vital part of her job.

“It’s important to see how the things we are doing in St. Paul are connecting to what people are doing throughout the state,” Bennett said. “This is really interesting.”

Members of the Minnesota House Agriculture Finance Committee and the Minnesota House Agriculture Policy Committee watched a presentation and toured the REG biodiesel refinery near Albert Lea on Tuesday. - Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Members of the Minnesota House Agriculture Finance Committee and the Minnesota House Agriculture Policy Committee watched a presentation and toured the REG biodiesel refinery near Albert Lea on Tuesday. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

She said it balances the relationship between lawmakers and constituents.

“So often people down here have to come to us,” she said. “It’s good that we can come down here. It’s good for communication.”

Bennett said she is seeking to eliminate discord between the state and local residents with regulations and rules.

Scott Hedderich, director of corporate affairs at REG, presented a slideshow describing the plant’s operations and biodiesel industry.

Hedderich said biodiesel adds value to a bushel of soybeans, steers and hogs. He described technology and upgrade capabilities at the company’s plants.

He said REG generates value in many ways, including energy security and environmental benefits.

Hedderich fielded questions from lawmakers and professionals in the biodiesel business about the inner workings of the industry.The lawmakers were then taken on a tour of the facility and were given a detailed description of the physical inner workings of the plant.

The two committees are on a two-day state tour. Prior to coming to Albert Lea Tuesday, lawmakers were in Faribault and Austin.

“This gives them the first-hand opportunity of seeing what biodiesel does for southern Minnesota,” said Mike Youngerberg, senior director of field services at Minnesota Soybean Growers Association.

Rep. Nels Pierson, R-Rochester, was pleased with the tour.

“This was great,” Pierson said. “I’ve had quite a tour in southeastern Minnesota today. It’s been interesting to see all the automation and ergonomic improvements plants have made in the last 20 years.”

REG Albert Lea is a commercial-scale biodiesel production facility. The multi-feedstock refinery manufactures approximately 30 million gallons of high-quality biodiesel a year, according to the company.

The biodiesel plant began production in April 2005. REG acquired the facility in 2011 and completed multi-feedstock technology upgrades in 2013.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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