Biofuels project will top special session agenda

JACKSON — Mississippi lawmakers on Friday will consider $50 million in state incentives for research and production of renewable fuel made from timber, one of the state’s most widely available natural resources.

Gov. Haley Barbour said yesterday the biofuels project would be one of three items on the agenda for a special session, and he’s asking legislators to let DeSoto County supervisors build a new jail outside the county seat of Hernando.

He also wants the House and Senate to give coastal D’Iberville permission to sign long-term leases of city land to private developers to help with four proposed projects.

Only the governor can call a special session, and he sets the agenda.

Barbour’s office didn’t reveal the name of the biofuels company or provide details about where it would be located. He said in a news release that the project would generate $85 million in wages and purchasing inside Mississippi and would create 1,000 jobs through the company and suppliers.

Wayne Tucker, assistant state forester and executive director of the Mississippi Institute for Forest Inventory, said in an interview that 65 percent of Mississippi is covered in trees, and about 75 of that land is held by private, non-industrial land owners.

“We’re blessed with a wonderful place to grow trees and if we manage them right, we have them forever,” said Tucker, who’s not involved in the biofuels project lawmakers will consider.

Barbour is seeking $45 million in bond money, plus tax breaks, for a biofuels company, $4 million for related workforce training and $1 million for research to be conducted at Mississippi State University’s Sustainable Energy Research Center.

Glenn Steele, the center’s director, said yesterday that the company will use wood chips, leftovers from saw mills and other timber products to make transportation fuel.

“There’s wood that’s left in the field that could be utilized, that’s not needed for the nutrition of the land,” Steele said.

D’Iberville city manager Michael Janus said the city needs legislative permission to sign any land leases that are longer than four years. He said D’Iberville wants to buy land and then lease it to private developers for four unrelated projects in different parts of town — a casino, an oceanarium, a mixed-use downtown retail development and a healthy living center for children. He said the healthy living center would be run by a non-profit group and would include displays about nutrition, a miniature golf course, batting cages and a water park.

Janus wouldn’t name the casino, but said it’s a separate project from the proposed Can-Can Casino. The D’Iberville Planning Commission held a hearing about the Can-Can project yesterday.

He said developers would invest about $568 million in the projects, create about 2,000 jobs and generate an estimated $16 million to $17 million in tax revenue.

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