PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A judge has handed a setback to opponents of an ethanol plant just outside of Onida.

Opponents had argued in court that Sully County leaders improperly gave Ringneck Energy a conditional use permit. They wanted the judge to overturn the decision.

KCCR radio reports that Judge John Brown recently affirmed the decision by Sully County officials.

The plant will produce 70 million gallons of ethanol fuel annually from about 25 million bushels of corn. Dirt work has already begun, and the company plans to file for a building permit soon. Construction is to start in the spring.

The County Commission earlier this year rezoned a parcel of land to pave the way for the plant that will employ about 40 people. Voters in June overwhelmingly backed the zoning change.

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