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Ricketts: 15,000 doses of J&J vaccine ordered for the state

Nebraska ethanol producer facing fines for not complying with environmental standards.
Pete Ricketts
Posted at 10:04 AM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-01 13:04:08-05

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — At a Monday press conference, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said the state should receive doses of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose COVID-19 vaccine this week and the state's attorney general said a Nebraska ethanol producer could be facing hefty fines for not complying with Nebraska environmental standards.

Nebraska Attorney General Doug Petersen’s office has filed a complaint in Lancaster County’s District Court against Saunders County ethanol producer AltEn, LLC which operates near Mead, Nebraska.

According to a news release from the AG's office:

The Complaint seeks:

  • Proper disposal of the contaminated byproducts (distillers grains and wastewater)
  • Compliance with State statutes, their permit conditions and the order of the Director
  • Civil Penalties (NEPA authorizes $10,000 per day per violation, subject to the court’s discretion)
~ Suzanne Gage, Director of Communications

The complaint came after the company failed to follow a year-old order by the Nebraska Department of Energy and Environment to remove a large pile of waste grain at the site as well as wastewater from production. The grain and water are cause for concern due to pesticides present in it — something not present in the grain used by other ethanol producers, said Nebraska Department of Energy and Environment Director Jim Macy.

On Feb. 12, wastewater from the site began to leak in the area after a tank housing it had a pipe burst.

Following that incident, Macy said tests of surrounding water wells showed the water is still at an acceptable level for drinking and that the people of Mead don’t appear to be in any danger.

The incident was not part of the decision to file the complaint said Petersen.

If AltEn fails to bring the situation under control, it could face penalties of up to $10,000 a day.

Macy said the department will continue to work with AltEn to handle the problem which Ricketts and Petersen said appears to be partially the result of poor management of the company.

In regards to fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Ricketts said Nebraska ordered 15,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s newly-approved COVID-19 vaccine. According to the FDA, the vaccine can be administered as a single dose — something which could come into play when looking at allocations, said the governor.

Though 15,000 doses should be coming to the state, supplies for the coming weeks are not guaranteed said the governor.

Ricketts said the data shows that Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine could be more effective in preventing the death of people ages 65 and older and that the state will continue to focus vaccination efforts on that group of people. As to when a shift from phase 1B focusing on that group may occur, the governor did not provide a timeline.

With new variants of COVID-19 appearing in the state, including a more transmissible variant, Ricketts said people need to continue in spread-mitigation efforts.

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