Fate of Rentech money unknown

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; The Legislature adjourned late Monday night without giving any money to Rentech, but it&8217;s not over yet, Rep. Robert Johnson said.

No bond bills &8212; including Katrina relief money &8212; were passed, and Johnson said this just means they&8217;ll suspend the deadline and come back

again soon.

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&8220;I know it&8217;s hard for anyone to believe,&8221; said Johnson, D-Natchez. &8220;But Rentech is still the only bill everyone agrees on.

&8220;We are still alive, and I have assurances that we&8217;ll continue to be alive.&8221;

The House was in session until nearly 10 p.m. Monday, and a group of local leaders were on hand for all of it.

&8220;We didn&8217;t expect for it to take this long, but that&8217;s just the way the process is,&8221; Supervisors President Darryl Grennell said.

Johnson praised city and county leaders for their diligence.

The House was supposed to sign the conference report by midnight Monday for it to be considered by the House and Senate. Both houses would then have had to pass the report by midnight today for it to go to the governor for his signature, but now the process is delayed.

Sen. Bob Dearing, D-Natchez, filed a resolution earlier Monday that would give lawmakers more time to consider a bill that includes $10 million for the Rentech project.

The Senate passed that resolution Monday and sent it to the House. But the House would still have to act on that bill today for it to pass.

&8220;If nothing else, we have that,&8221; Dearing said, adding that &8220;so much is riding on this project.&8221;

Sen. Thomas Robertson, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has said he&8217;ll recommend bringing that amount back to $15 million once Rentech answers a few more financial questions.

&8220;He said more information was needed,&8221; Dearing said.

Local leaders and officials of Colorado-based Rentech requested the $15 million for site work to prepare the old Belwood Country Club site at the port for the $800 million project.

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.