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Published: Tuesday, 4/1/2008

Coking plant's backers say facility still a go


FDS Coke LLC is still committed to building its proposed $800 million coking facility and co-generation power plant near Maumee Bay, despite veering off yet another projected groundbreaking date and being confronted by a new round of appeals.

Francis X. Lyons, the investor group's Chicago-based attorney, told The Blade yesterday that project sponsors continue to work on financing but that there is no updated construction timetable.

FDS said when it received its latest permit modification from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency on Jan. 31 that it would break ground by late March. That was the latest of several unofficial construction start-up dates since the original permit was issued in June, 2004.

The Sierra Club, in tandem with Harbor View - a village downwind of the proposed site - has appealed the permit modification on the grounds that too much time has elapsed.

Both sets of appeals are pending with the Environmental Review Appeals Commission, a state panel empowered to overturn Ohio EPA decisions.

The environmental group has blocked construction of a proposed coal-fired power plant in Benton, Ill.

That facility, called EnviroPower, got a construction permit from the Illinois EPA in 2001. Judge Phil Gilbert of U.S. District Court ruled in 2006 that EnviroPower's permit was void, though, because project developers had waited too long.

Early last year, famed legal scholar Alan M. Dershowitz jumped into the fray on behalf of EnviroPower. In an EnviroPower news release, Mr. Dershowitz accused the Sierra Club of threatening America's energy independence by trying to stop all coal-fired power plants in the Midwest.

Mr. Lyons said the latest appeals are without merit.

"We're quite confident the permit has not expired and the modification will be upheld by [the appeals commission]," he said.

Lance Traves, president of Labyrinth Management Group, Inc., the project's technical adviser, said enough contracts have been signed to keep the permit valid. He also had no new timetable for construction.

Plans call for the site to be developed on 51 acres owned by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority on the Oregon-Toledo border near the Maumee River's mouth.

FDS has promised 150 jobs at an average salary of $45,000 a year. Critics claim the pollution it generates won't be worth the investment.

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