Rentech funding goes up

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 16, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The Senate Finance Committee upped Rentech&8217;s financing to the requested $15 million late Monday night, Sen. Bob Dearing said.

Finance Chairman Thomas Robertson has pledged the full $15 million will make it out of the Senate if he sees proof Rentech could put together financing for its end of the project.

&8220;He&8217;s comfortable Rentech will come up with its finances,&8221; Dearing said.

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It also shows the Senate fully supports economic development for southwest Mississippi, he said.

Full funding was added to an existing House bill, HB 1634, that funds higher education. If the House doesn&8217;t concur with the revision the matter will go to conference committee.

In such committees, held before the session ends April 2, groups of representatives and senators work to iron out the details of House and Senate bills dealing with the same projects, merging those bills into one.

The Rentech money has passed the House and Senate in other bills recently but included $2 million and $10 million for the project, respectively.

It&8217;s not uncommon for such requests to be slashed early in a legislative session, then for funding to be partially or fully restored by the time the session adjourns.

Nearly 20 local officials lobbied House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Feb. 21 to fund the $15 million.

County supervisors President Darryl Grennell said he believes that trip was one reason the House and Senate are fully behind the project.

&8220;Showing community support played a major role,&8221; Grennell said. &8220;I was pleased we had unanimous support of the city, the EDA and my board, &8230; and I think that made a significant impact

The Rentech plant, which would gasify coal to create a cleaner type of diesel fuel, would mean 200 permanent jobs &8212; with an average salary of $45,000 plus benefits &8212; and 1,500 construction-phase jobs.

The $15 million was originally requested by local leaders and officials of the Colorado-based Rentech to prepare the old Belwood Country Club site at the port for the $800 million project.