Wood pellet plant delays Richmond County project

Enviva rep: Hamlet plant still has green light

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

ROCKINGHAM — A representative of the wood pellet manufacturing company requested a delay on the incentive program by the Richmond County commissioners.

Glenn Gray, project manager for Maryland-based Enviva, asked the Richmond County Board of Commissioners on Monday for the delay because the company’s other proposed plant, in Sampson County, experienced setbacks. The delay at the one has an immediate effect on the Richmond Count project, Gray said.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Glenn Gray, project manager with Enviva, requests the Richmond County Board of Commissioners approve a delay to the Hamlet project.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Glenn Gray, project manager with Enviva, requests the Richmond County Board of Commissioners approve a delay to the Hamlet project.

The company announced in September plans to build two plants that would create a combined 160 permanent jobs between the two facilities by the end of 2017 with an investment of more than $214.2 million. Enviva is one of the world’s largest producers of wood pellets made from a mix of low-grade wood resources, all of which are byproducts of the traditional sawtimber industry.  Enviva wood pellets are high in density and have similar operational benefits to the coal they replace.

The Richmond County plant is be constructed along State Route 177 North across from CSX. Gray told commissioners during their regular monthly public meeting that closing on that property has not yet been finalized, but that the permitting process in Sampson County has pushed everything back.

“Closes don’t always move as smoothly as you’d like,” Gray said.

The permit for the Sampson County plant was approved only about 10 days ago, Gray said, and only now is the site being prepared for construction.

It was, he said, “a complicated permit process,” one that “has taken considerably longer than we expected.”

Gray did not blame the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the delay. Instead, he credited them with being helpful through a complex process that took nearly six months longer than expected.

Gray assured the commissioners there was no reason to lose faith in the project. He reminded them that Gov. Pat McCrory has required that the company have both plans operational by the end of 2016 “or we lose the incentives.”

The plan now is to begin construction in Hamlet by the end of 2015 and have the plant operational around August, he said.

The original plan had the Sampson County plant being built first. That remains the goal, Gray said. In the meantime, the company has moved forward in building a port facility — a $45 million investment — and purchasing equipment for two plants, not just one.

“I can understand the apprehension what’s going on,” perhaps reading the faces and body language of some of the seven commissioners. “Every project we’ve ever announced, we’ve built. Our intentions are to be moving forward… but we have had some delays.”

The commissioners unanimously approved the request. Chairman Kenneth Robinette said after the vote that the county might have lost the project altogether had it not approved the request for a delay.

The commissioners also approved the addition of a sentence to the contract between the county and Enviva that reflects state code: that the project does not request a State Environmental Policy Act review or investigation.

County Manager Rick Sago called that request “reasonable” and that it generally formalizes what’s already on the books as law.

 

Filed in: Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News

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