Leaders lobby Washington for Rentech

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Economic development and county officials are in Washington this week seeking support for a proposed fuel manufacturing facility planned for Adams County.

They&8217;re lobbying not only for financial incentives for the plant, but also for federal contracts and the possible location of a fuel testing facility in Adams County.

Pending approval of incentives, Colorado-based fuel manufacturer Rentech plans to build a $650 million, 200-job plant at the former Belwood Country Club site near the Natchez-Adams Port, completing construction by fall 2010.

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The plant would make diesel fuel from coal and petroleum coke shipped downriver from Rentech&8217;s Illinois location and would produce agricultural fertilizer as a by-product.

The facility would make Fischer-Tropsch fuel, a type of fuel some federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, are interested in using.

&8220;It would decrease emissions from their vehicles,&8221; said Bob Latham, attorney for the Adams County Board of Supervisors.

Toward that end, Latham, supervisors President Darryl Grennell and officials with the Economic Development Authority were scheduled to visit with defense department officials Monday at the Pentagon.

But the Department of Defense may be interested in more than becoming just an end user of the fuel.

&8220;We&8217;re also trying to get a testing facility (for the fuel) in Adams County,&8221; Grennell said.

The facility, if it comes to fruition, would be run by Alcorn State University in conjunction with the Department of Defense and perhaps other state universities, Grennell said.

In addition to their meetings at the Pentagon, members of the delegation were expected to meet with Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott, both R-Miss., and Rep. Chip Pickering, R-3rd District.

Other officials they will meet with this week include Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., since the company is also developing a facility in that state.

A county delegation traveled to Washington in late October on the same project.

The federal government has a variety of tax and other incentives for coal gasification plants, and Rentech is also expected to ask city and county officials for tax breaks on the local level.