CCPA to Repay Grant for Plant Baard Never Built

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio – The Columbiana County Port Authority has reached an agreement with the Ohio Development Services Agency to repay a $148,000 grant over three years for job-creation incentives never met.

Monday night, the board of the port authority ratified the agreement that Executive Director Penny Traina reached to repay the funds: $50,000 June 16, $49,000 June 1, 2017, and the remaining $49,000 June 1, 2018.

The agency is not charging the port authority interest, Traina said after the board met.

The port authority obtained the grant in 2008 on condition that 200 permanent full-time jobs would be created in Columbiana County. It did so based on Baard Energy LLC’s intent to build a $6 billion coal gasification plant northwest of Wellsville near the Wellsville Intermodal Facility.

The plant was to take coal, convert it to very clean-energy jet fuels, capture the carbon waste and store it deep beneath the surface.

The project, announced a decade ago, never panned out, in part because of falling energy prices that made natural gas and oil more attractive.

On June 11, 2013, Tracy Drake, former CEO of the port authority, persuaded the Development Services Agency to reduce the number of jobs created to 100 after Baard reduced the scale of its ambitions and proposed using natural gas as the feedstock to turn out clean-energy jet fuels. He also persuaded the agency to extend the deadline for the jobs to materialize until Dec. 31, 2015.

In September 2013, Baard proposed building a smaller gasification plant that would run $1 billion and employ 100 upon completion.

The port authority used the $148,000 to acquire properties in Yellow Creek Township that Baard said it needed for its 400-acre site. Baard took title but subsequently sold controlling interest in the properties to Planck Investments. In this instance, the port authority has nothing tangible to show for its efforts at economic development.

In her efforts to review and assess the assets of the port authority, Traina inspected a sub-basement boiler room in the headquarters building at 1250 St. George St., she reported to her board.

There she found the “nonfunctioning boiler system was wrapped in asbestos,” she said. While the boiler room poses no risk to the tenants of the building, she did contact the Howland Co. LLC, Boardman, to clean the boiler room and abate the asbestos there.

The port authority board awarded Howland a contract for $9,730. Work is scheduled to begin May 23 and take five days.

In addition, the board awarded Mid-Atlantic Environmental Consultants, Gibsonia, Pa., $385 a day to oversee the asbestos removal and take samples of the air inside the building to ensure no asbestos reaches the tenants’ offices.

Expected bill is $1,925 for the monitoring the Environmental Protection Agency requires.

Pictured: Rendering of a coal conversion plant similar to the one Baard Energy said it would build.

From Our Archives:
October 2011: Johnson Blames ‘Environmental Extremists’ for Baard Energy’s Failure to Build Plant

April 2011: Baard Financiers Halt Coal Plant Project

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