EAST LIVERPOOL - The Baard Energy project is alive and still moving forward, according to Steve Dopuch, company vice president.
Speaking following this week's meeting of the county Port Authority, Dopuch said the project is starting to again draw interest from investors who spent the last six months reviewing their financial situation and waiting to see what direction the recession was heading before taking on new investments.
"We're happy to say the financial markets ... woke up not just for our project, but for other projects," he said.
Baard's plans to build a $6 billion coal-to-liquid fuel conversion plant outside Wellsville has been on hold for the past several months while the company tried to put together the financing package. He said the entire financial market dried up in October as the recession took hold, with nervous investors pulling back and taking stock of their finances and the economy before deciding to get back into the game.
Dopuch said the financial markets have begun to thaw out, and they are now in "serious talks" with investors who are interested in the project. He said they hope to have a financial package in place so site preparation can begin before the end of the year.
In March, Baard withdrew its application for a $2.5 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy because of legal action taken by several environmental groups that oppose the project. The Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council have appealed the issuance of state and federal environmental permits for Baard, which could delay release of any federal loans pending the outcome of the appeals.
Meanwhile, Port Authority Chief Executive Officer Tracy Drake said they are preparing to move forward on purchasing the 522 acres outside Wellsville for the Baard project using $5 million in state funding. The port authority has an option to purchase the land from each of the 16 owners, and Drake said Baard will provide them with a check in the amount of $45,000 to cover the administrative fee charged by the state for release of the remaining $4.5 million in site acquisition grant money.
Drake expects to be able to close on the land purchases within the next two to three months.
In other developments, Dopuch said the cap-and-trade bill working its way through Congress shouldn't hinder the project because Baard plans to capture 87 percent of the carbon dioxide generated by the plant and inject it safely into abandoned oil wells.
"Our project benefits from cap-and-trade, but our concern is what does it do to the economy because we have to work in this economy too," he said, referring to the higher energy costs that will result from the bill.