Twelve ethanol plants in Minnesota signed on to an unprecedented agreement with state and federal EPA officials earlier this week, agreeing to pay pollution fines and update their emissions-reduction technology. An official at the U.S. EPA said ethanol plants across the country would be expected to follow the lead of the Minnesota plants. A spokesperson for the plants said the industry had a “heartfelt desire to be good environmental neighbors,” while a spokesperson for one of the plants called the agreement a preemptive measure to avoid court battles after two years of local complaints about odors and pollution. Plant owners will shell out $19,000 to $39,000 apiece in fines and install equipment costing between $1 million and $2 million, with the goal of reducing emissions of volatile organic compounds by 95 percent. The agreement was welcomed by some environmental groups, but upset St. Paul officials and some city residents who complained that the deal could undermine a lawsuit that they have filed against a polluting plant in the city.