A Lake County solid waste management official wants to give Earl Powers 90 days to prove he can finance the trash-to-ethanol plant that he pledged more than 1,000 days ago to build.

Griffith Town Councilman Rick Ryfa, a member of the Lake County Solid Waste Management District board, said he and other board members are growing impatient with and skeptical of Powers' ability to finance the proposed Schneider plant.

The plant would rely on commercially unproven technology to transform carbon-based trash into the fuel alternative ethanol.

Ryfa said the board is becoming weary of the estimated groundbreaking and financing announcement dates that have come and gone several times over in the three years since Powers signed a contract with the county to build the plant.

And given the state of the economy, he said some board members are beginning to doubt if Powers' company, Powers Energy of America, will be able to come up with hundreds of millions of dollars needed to cover the estimated price tag for the ethanol plant and a separate but connected solar power plant proposed for the Schneider site.

Ryfa said he and fellow Griffith Councilman George Jerome, who also sits on the solid waste district board, plan to propose the 90-day deadline at the next solid waste district meeting, scheduled for late November.

Powers did not respond to Times inquiries Friday seeking comment regarding Ryfa's proposed 90-day deadline. In the past, Powers and another official from his company have refused to confirm what entities -- if any -- are providing financing for his plant.

"We want to give them the 90 days to come up with a solid financing plan," Ryfa said. "During that time, we would propose that the solid waste district also take some time to explore some other trash-processing options.

"We owe it to the people of Lake County to come up with some answers. We can't just let this linger on indefinitely."

Jerome, one of four board members to vote against the Powers contract in 2008, agreed with Ryfa.

"Ninety days from the next board meeting is more than generous for them to come up with a financing plan," he said. "It has been so long already. I'm not seeing any progress with this at all."

The waste management district -- under the leadership of board Chairman and County Commissioner Gerry Scheub -- approved the contract with Powers in November 2008. The proposed plant has been hailed by supporters as a means to consolidate the county's trash flow, diverting it away from landfills and using it as the raw material to generate a fuel commodity.

Waste district Executive Director Jeff Langbehn told the district board at its Sept. 30 meeting he expected Powers would fulfill his contract with the county.

But to date, Powers has yet to break ground at the proposed Schneider site and has not announced applications for any of the necessary environmental or construction permits.

Ryfa, who has opposed the trash-to-ethanol plan in the past, is not alone in his frustrations regarding the plant.

Schneider Town Council President Richard Wright told The Times in August his town is becoming increasingly uneasy given the lack of progress regarding the plant.

As the plant's expected host site, Schneider officials hope the town will receive a major economic development boost if it is ever sees successful construction and operation.

source: nwitems

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