Agri-Ethanol looking into other S.C. sites

Agri-Ethanol looking into other S.C. sites

An executive with the company that had said it would build an ethanol plant in Batesburg-Leesville said this week the Lexington County site is only one of several under consideration in South Carolina.

Gardner Payne, Agri-Ethanol Products vice president for business development, declined to say how many other sites are in competition with Batesburg-Leesville, or when his company would make a decision.

”When we determine a county that best fits us and we fit them, then that’s when we’ll make a determination,” Payne said.

Yet he said the western Lexington County town remains in contention.

In October, company chief operating officer Terry Ruse told The State, ”It’s been decided that we’re going to do it (build in Batesburg-Leesville). It’s just a matter of when.”

Ruse said the company plans to build 20 plants along the eastern seaboard, and the timing for groundbreaking at the Lexington County site is, ”competing with many others.”

When pressed about the timing, Ruse said, ”Our goal is to bring plants out of the ground every six months. You can figure from there.”

Thursday, Payne said the company had never settled on the Batesburg-Leesville location and Ruse’s statement was mischaracterized.

Agri-Ethanol has not taken an option on the 175 acres of county-owned land the company is considering, Payne said. Though County Council has voted twice to extend the option.

Community opposition has not chased Agri-Ethanol away, but it would not go where it is not wanted, Payne said.

”We want to be a partner in a community that embraces us. We’re not backing away at all (from Batesburg-Leesville).”

Payne said the company has received about 50 e-mails and phone calls in support of the plant compared with about 10 that were opposed.

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