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A renewable energy plant in South Sioux City has agreed to pay nearly $50,000 as part of a settlement agreement reached with the Environmental Protection Agency this week.

Big Ox Energy will pay a more than $10,000 civil penalty, as well as contribute an ambulance and hazard equipment to the South Sioux City Fire Department worth nearly $40,000.

The penalties are related to the release of chemical gases from the plant's biogas production and packaging facility that led to the hospitalization of an employee on Dec. 14, 2016, when the employee drilled a hole into an anaerobic digester to install a pipe.

A joint investigation of the plant by the EPA and Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality showed the plant was using biogas, methane and hydrogen sulfide in its processing and was emitting hydrogen sulfide from its facility, which also entered the sewer system and caused the displacement of 26 households last fall.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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