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07-22-06 Farmers begin toilsome task of securing environmental permits

By Tim Cox

  The group of local farmers aiming to build a $100 million ethanol plant east of Celina are beginning the arduous task of getting environmental permits from the Ohio EPA.

  Mercer Energy Inc. plans to build a 50-million-gallon ethanol production plant that would process 18 million bushels of corn annually. In addition to corn alcohol that can be blended with fuel, the plant also would produce livestock feed products.

  The local farmers who make up the group met recently with officials from the EPA to discuss the permitting process. Mercer Energy has retained consulting firm Natural Resource Group Inc. to help navigate the application and permitting process, according to a company news release.

  EPA permitting can take up to a year or more, but Mercer Energy Chairman Jim VanTilburg told The Daily Standard last week that EPA officials gave the group an estimate of six months. Company officials are confident that state officials will stick close to that time frame, he said.

  VanTilburg and company President Ryan Schwieterman met face-to-face with state environmental officials to work out the details of the complicated permitting process.  A plant could be up and running within 18 months or so after securing the proper permits, company offiicials have said.

  Mercer Energy officials also met recently with Ohio Department of Developmental officials to discuss potential economic development incentives the project might be able to use. Local development officials also are working with the company on this issue.

  As proposed, the Mercer Energy plant would produce 50 million gallons of ethanol annually and would also produce 184,000 tons of high-fiber, high-protein livestock feed. The trademarked HydroMilling process uses 15 percent less energy, consumes fewer chemicals and generates less pollution than traditional ethanol production techniques, company officials have said.

  The Dayton engineering firm AMG Inc. is helping the local group design the plant, which is expected to employ 45 to 50 people at the site with another 100 or so spin-off jobs created throughout the community.


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