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Firm wants to operate plant in W.Va. to convert solid waste into fuel

Project might be able to take advantage of $10 million in federal stimulus bonds

May 04, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- An Italian company is interested in operating a plant in Berkeley County that would convert municipal solid waste into fuel, officials said last week at the Berkeley County Commission's regular meeting.

The "biomass energy-conversion project" by Entsorga Italia S.p.A., based in Tortona, in northern Italy, and Chemtex USA, an affiliated company based in North Carolina, might be able to take advantage of $10 million in federal stimulus bonds.

Through adoption of separate resolutions, the commission on Thursday endorsed the allocation of bonds for Entsorga's project and $9 million in facility bonds for a civic center/sports arena project proposed by Civic Sounds Inc. of Martinsburg.

The financial backers of both projects would have to pay off the low-interest bonds, which are part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

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The West Virginia Economic Development Authority also has to review the projects, according to Berkeley County Development Authority Executive Director Stephen L. Christian. He said he did not know when the state would act or what the review process entailed.

If financially viable, the biomass-conversion project still would need approvals from the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority and other government agencies, officials said Thursday.

Solid Waste Authority Chairman Clint Hogbin, who said he first attended a meeting about Entsorga's project several months ago, said biomass energy-conversion technology has been touted recently in the waste- management industry as a solution for reducing reliance on landfills.

"The question for the Solid Waste Authority is 'does the technology work and can it be built?'" in a location that meets established criteria for such an operation, Hogbin said.

Christian said Entsorga's proposed operation would convert municipal waste into fuel that would be sold to manufacturers that use an industrial furnace for production.

"They want to be in an industrial park area," Christian said.

Such facilities are currently operational in Europe, where landfills have been eliminated, Christian said.

That fact, Christian said, offers some comfort that the proposed operation could be viable.

As for the Civic Sounds project, Christian confirmed that it was affiliated with The Living Room church's plan to build a sprawling worship and education center along Interstate 81 near Martinsburg.

Christian, who is a member of the county commission's stimulus bonds review committee, said the church project's backers did "a better job of putting their numbers together" after they were previously not recommended by the panel to take advantage of the bond financing.

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