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Commission gives Biomass right of way

SOUTH POINT — Do the right thing and you will find local leaders are willing to work with you.

That was the message Lawrence County Commissioners Thursday gave a local entity seeking their help.

Biomass Energy was granted an electricity transmission line that will cross U.S. 52 and had asked for a right of way permit earlier this year. When the permit was first requested, the commission denied the request because Biomass had not paid its taxes and in the past had been in trouble with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency over various non-compliance issues.

Since then, commissioners said taxes have been paid. In a letter to the commission, Biomass President Mark Harris indicated the environmental issues have also been resolved.

“All our taxes are paid in full with Lawrence County and the Ohio EPA issues regarding coal at our plant is now in the Ohio EPA control,” Harris said in his letter. “We have paid the performance bond as requested and the fines associated with the delay in the removal in full. The Ohio EPA has now transferred the bond monies to a trust account which they are now responsible for the balance of the coal to be removed.”

Commissioners said if Biomass does what it is supposed to do, they will cooperate on requests such as the right of way.

“Three things we’ve said for six or seven years, what we try to ask of each business owner, is pay your taxes, meet EPA requirements and keep local leaders, business leaders informed. We’ve had a lot of controversy on this. We don’t want to stand in the way of something that may happen,” Commissioner Jason Stephens said.

Commissioner Doug Malone agreed. “I think this needs to be done,” he said. “If they don’t do what they should, maybe (with this permit) we still could make the property useful.”

Biomass wants to build a 200 megawatt renewable power project near The Point industrial park.

Harris said in his letter the “green energy power project” is in its final stage and will contribute $350 million in construction dollars to the local economy and will bring 125 “premium jobs.”