Fulton officials are looking into ways to recoup some of the money the city invested in the failed BlueFire Renewables project.
By Adam Armour
Last week, Fulton attorney Chip Mills, who represents the city’s board of aldermen, told city leaders that he’s exploring whatever legal avenues he can to see if the city can recover some of the money it invested in the long-gestating, now-defunct energy plant project.
“I’d like to look at some of the official channels as I try to decide if the city can recoup anything from BlueFire,” Mills said.
Mills told aldermen he’s sent official letters to the county asking for information regarding the contracts among the county, BlueFire and the city. Although the county complied, Mills said he believes he’s still missing some of the paperwork.
Here’s a quick review of the troubled relationship between BlueFire and Fulton: In 2009, the city borrowed $2.3 million from the Mississippi Development Authority to help develop land on Access Road, near Port Itawamba, to accommodate the California-based upstart, which planned to build a $400 million ethanol plant in the city. The city split the cost with Itawamba County, which paid $2.3 million.
Based on the agreement among BlueFire, Itawamba County and the City of Fulton, the energy company would make lease payments to the county, which would reimburse the city a portion of said payment.
That agreement held for several years. But beginning around 201, BlueFire began missing payments as it struggled with financing through the U.S. Department of Energy and, later, China Eximbank.
In 2014, BlueFire stopped making payments to the county altogether and, in turn, had its lease terminated the following year. The status of the company is currently unclear.
It’s the city that’s been the hardest jilted by BlueFire’s failure to materialize. The city has only received about $180,000 in payments from the company, and BlueFire may not be paying, Fulton is; the city has been making payments to the MDA of $150,000 each year. The county’s are about double that.
One of Mills’ chief complaints, last week, was the city hasn’t been kept in the loop about the interactions between the county and the company or the status of the project. He said Fulton officials weren’t even notified when the county canceled the lease agreement with BlueFire.