What had been billed as the moment when financiers would potentially endorse Lake County's trash-to-ethanol plan became another in a long line of failures of a would-be developer to produce, some county officials said Thursday.
But now the Lake County Solid Waste Management District Board has a new twist to ponder: Terminate the existing trash-to-ethanol contract with Evansville-based Powers Energy of America or sign on with a potential new developer looking to buy out Powers.
The board voted Thursday to convene an executive session — closed to the public — at 5 p.m. Aug. 30 to discuss the possible legal ramifications of terminating the Powers Energy contract.
Would-be financiers Marathon Petroleum and Raymond James were not present at Thursday's Lake County Solid Waste Management District Board meeting, after those pledging to build the trash-to-ethanol plant had vehemently requested more time from the board last month to prove they could finance the deal.
Powers Energy of America representatives, who previously pledged to bring Marathon and Raymond James representatives to the meeting, also skipped Thursday night's meeting. Griffith Councilman and solid waste board member Rick Ryfa termed the lack of Powers personnel at the meeting "insulting."
Powers Energy representatives, who were declared by the Lake County Solid Waste Management District Board earlier this year to be in breach of contract, had asked last month for an additional 30 days to arrange for the financiers to address the board regarding commitments to fund the long-awaited and debated trash-to-ethanol plant in Schneider.
To some members of the solid waste board, the failure of any of the financiers to attend Thursday's meeting was yet another in a long line of missed deadlines and failed promises in the controversial proposal for consolidating the county's trash processing by converting carbon-based garbage into ethanol.
Since 2008, when Powers Energy inked a contract with the solid waste district to build the plant, Powers has yet to secure financing, land or permits required to build and operate the plant.
Thursday night's board meeting came in the wake of an announcement earlier this week that a group of construction contractors is preparing to buy out original would-be trash-to-ethanol developer Earl Powers and his Evansville-based Powers Energy of America.
Ed Cleveland, who represents the construction consortium SMC LLC, confirmed Thursday his group plans to purchase all trash-to-ethanol licenses and other assets from Powers.
He said the business deal is contingent on a "due diligence" process during which SMC attorneys are trying to determine if Powers can legally transfer his trash-to-ethanol license, which he purchased from chemical company INEOS Bio a few years ago.
"It's a process we believe in and that we want to move forward," Cleveland told The Times before Thursday's meeting. "Right now, the deal is conditional on the accuracy of certain representations (by Powers)."
If SMC purchases the needed licenses and other assets from Powers — and if the board decides to continue working with the new consortium — the county will be starting back at square one in a process that already had occupied more than three years, said board member and Schererville Councilman Hal Slager.