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Information shared for proposed new industry

AHOSKIE – Members of the public had the opportunity to ask questions Tuesday afternoon at Roanoke Chowan Community College regarding the proposed power plant on Joe Holloman Road, off NC 11 near Millennium.

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) Rural Utilities Service officials, together with Hertford Renewable Energy, hosted the meeting and took comments and input during the two-hour public scoping event.

Over a dozen locals turned out for the meeting, mingling with those who could answer questions and viewing displayed maps and charts on the proposed facility.

The 93-acre site, to be operated by Decker Energy International, would house a 50-megawatt biomass power plant that would provide full-time employment for 20-25 individuals and 100-150 indirect jobs, according to Decker Vice President Marvin Burchfield.

Decker, based out of Florida, is the parent company for Hertford Renewable Energy, LLC (HRE).

The company already owns and operates one power plant in New Bern.

&uot;We’re targeting June 2011 as our in-service date, so with a construction timeline of 24-30 months that puts us needing to break ground by the end of the year,&uot; Burchfield told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald.

Currently, the site on which Decker wishes to locate contains mainly soybean fields and timber.

No homes or buildings are located in the area.

Burchfield also said his company has an option to buy the property, but the loan has not yet closed.

Economically, officials are saying that the plant would be a big benefit to Hertford County.

&uot;There would be a payroll of $1.5 to $2 million a year and the purchasing of local goods and services would run to $12-15 million a year… the addition to the tax base would be in excess of $100 million,&uot; Burchfield noted.

HRE is seeking USDA financing for a portion of the estimated $150 million it would take to construct the facility.

If approved, they would be issued a low-income loan.

&uot;That makes it more attractive for them to be able to develop the project and enables them to offer more competitive rates to rural electric providers,&uot; Hertford County Economic Director Bill Early explained.

Some had expressed concern over possible environmental issues, but Burchfield said the impact would be a &uot;benign&uot; one.

&uot;Science says this project would be ‘CO2 neutral’… and the fuel source is grown right here, wood chips and logging residue,&uot; he stated.

An air quality chart set up at the front of the auditorium at RCCC showed the projected numbers.

Currently, particulate matter in the area air is listed at 11.0 ug/m3; that number is expected to increase to 18.3 after the facility is operational.

Sulfur dioxide levels would rise from 21 to 25.8 daily, nitrogen oxide from 26 to 27.8 annually, and carbon monoxide from 1,905 to 2007.4 in an eight-hour period.

Still, according to the chart, those numbers are within the levels set by the Clean Air Act and contain &uot;ample margin&uot; to protect even the most sensitive members of the population.

USDA Rural Development Area Director Doug Causey added that he believed the project would greatly benefit the area.

&uot;This would be very beneficial to Ahoskie… the facility would be using wastewater from the town,&uot; he noted.

Written public comments submitted Tuesday night are not yet available but will be released on the USDA’s website after 30 days.

Public comments will also continue to be accepted by the USDA until July 10.

For more information on the project, visit http://www.usda.gov/rus/water/ees/ea.htm.