Canadian companies hope to build biodiesel plant in Vermont

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(Host) Two Canadian companies are hoping to build biodiesel processing plant in northwestern Vermont.

The Vermont Economic Development Authority is backing the project. The companies say they need state tax credits as well to make the project feasible.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) If it’s built, the plant would be New England’s largest commercial bio-diesel facility, and one of only 65 projects of this kind in the country.

Two Canadian firms are behind the proposal. They plan to produce and market up to 4 million gallons of fuel a year from a facility adjacent to the Swanton Industrial Park.

Jo Bradley is the chief executive officer of the Vermont Economic Development Authority, which recently granted a $645,000 loan to the Quebec firms.

(Bradley) “Obviously we looked at it the same way we look at all our loans in terms of business plan, cash flow and collateral. But on top of all that, clearly we thought those we’re all appropriate. But this was an exciting project from an economic development standpoint, which is obviously something we also look at.”

(Dillon) The plant would make 100% bio-diesel, a fuel produced from vegetable oil or crops such as soybeans. Initially, the feedstock would come from Quebec. But Bradley sees potential for Vermont to someday produce the raw material.

(Bradley) “I think it’s exciting that there may be a nexus between the farmers that could perhaps raise soybeans or whatever type of seed could be pressed for the oil that this company could be using, so hopefully over time there may be some opportunity for Vermont agriculture industry as well.”

(Dillon) The project still has to clear significant hurdles. Max Maurice, president of one of the Canadian firms behind the proposal, says he’s hoping for a favorable ruling in early September from the Vermont Economic Progress Council. The state panel grants tax credits to companies if they can show they will create jobs here.

Tim Smith is the executive director of the Franklin County Development Corporation. He says that the new project should employ about 20 people initially, and 30 to 35 after five years.

Smith says biodiesel has many advantages.

(Smith) “Better gas mileage, longer periods of times between oil changes. It’s better for the vehicle, cleaner running engine, as well as smoother running engine. So from an environmental perspective it brings a lot from that side as well.”

(Dillon) But Smith emphasizes that the biodiesel plant is not a done deal yet. He says it needs environmental permits as well as the tax credits before it can go ahead.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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