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David Rubenstein, chief executive officer of California Ethanol & Power LLC went before the Imperial County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Oct. 19, to request another extension on a $750,000 loan CE+P received from the county to develop a sugarcane-to-ethanol plant in the Imperial Valley. | MARCIE LANDEROS PHOTO

Imperial County Delays CE+P Loan Extension

Board of Supervisors Gives Developers of Ethanol Plant Two Weeks to Come Up with a Repayment Plan for $750,000 Loan

EL CENTRO — Six years after California Ethanol & Power LLC accepted a $750,000 loan from Imperial County to build its sugarcane-to-ethanol plant still in the planning phases, the Board of Supervisors gave CE+P two weeks to provide a clear plan on how it would repay the loan before agreeing to extend repayment.

District 2 Imperial County Supervisor Luis Plancarte requested a formal plan of repayment for the loan in writing, so county officials and members of the public could review the document before the board votes.

This came after CE+P Chief Executive Officer David Rubenstein explained to the board during its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 19, that CE+P’s plan for funding for the development of its Sugar Valley Energy LLC biorefinery and energy plant, and by extension, the repayment of the loan, is to use unspecified state tax credits and to sell Green Energy Bonds.

Imperial County Supervisor Luis Plancarte on Tuesday, Oct. 19, requests that California Ethanol & Power LLC put a repayment plan on a $750,000 loan in writing before the county will consider extending its loan. | MARCIE LANDEROS PHOTO

Rubenstein said CE+P was cleared to sell the bonds on May 25, which he added would enable the company to raise $1 for the project.

“My concern continues to be the financial, that we have no warranties, no guarantees. And we do talk in millions and billions, and when it relates to state of California tax breaks, all these potentials are hanging out there. But yet this county has nothing to hold on, and that’s my No. 1 concern in protecting that (the county),” Plancarte said. “So, what I would like to do with the motion is I would like for you to put in writing what it is exactly that you are offering, not just verbally here, because we’ll miss something.”

The loan was part of the Imperial County Agricultural Benefit Fund, paid into by solar energy developers that built on land taken out of rotation for agriculture.

While county District 3 Supervisor and board Chairman Michael Kelley and District 5 Supervisor Ray Castillo both expressed support for the project, District 1 Supervisor Jesus Escobar joined Plancarte in expressing concern over the loan, focusing on the lack of progress the project has made since October 2020, when the company promised to have funding in place by July.

“Can you update us in this (the securing of funds)? Because you were here in October with all the big promises for July, but based on the information I have here, you haven’t delivered,” board Vice Chairman Escobar said.

Rubenstein responded that MasTec Power Corp., CE+P’s engineering and development partner, did not sign an engineering procurement and construction agreement until Oct. 1, almost a year later. The reasoning Rubenstein for delay was the length of the contract, which was 524 pages. He added, CE+P was “at MasTec’s mercy.”

Imperial County Supervisor Jesus Escobar reads over an update that California Ethanol & Power LLC provided for the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 19. | MARCIE LANDEROS PHOTO

CE+P officials have said the facility will produce about 68 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol, 49 megawatts of baseload electricity produced from biomass, and 737,000 cubic feet of pipeline-quality biomethane from locally grown sugarcane, bringing jobs to Imperial County to both grow the sugarcane and to process it.

Besides securing a partnership and a price tag of $620 million for the facility with MasTec, CE+P has hired local design and engineering firms DuBose Design Group and LC Engineering to work on offsite improvements and has 135 acres of sugarcane planted in Imperial County to supply resources for Sugar Valley Energy.

Eagle Scout Project Gets Support

Michael Zamores, a senior at Central Union High School in El Centro, and prospective Eagle Scout, presented his Eagle Scout project to the board. The project will focus on the proper disposal of retired US flags.

The project earned him the board’s blessings and financial support.

“I am obligating myself to pledge $500 for your project,” District 4 Supervisor Ryan Kelley said. Kelley said he was an Eagle Scout himself.

Zamores’ project consists of the purchase and installation of retired flag receptacles, which will hold US flags which have been retired from use. Once a month, Zamores intends to go to any receptacles that have been installed to check for retired flags. Any flags placed into the receptacle will be removed and destroyed in a dignified manner in accordance with tradition.

Michael Zamores, potential Eagle Scout and a senior at Central Union High School in El Centro, presents his Eagle Scout project to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Oct. 19, earning him a pledge of $500 from Supervisor Ryan Kelley, who was an Eagle Scout. | MARCIE LANDEROS PHOTO

Electronic Recording Resolution Approved

Chuck Storey, Imperial County’s clerk and recorder, requested the adoption of a resolution to approve the county’s participation in the Electronic Recording Delivery Act of 2004, which expedites the recording process for official records by allowing the use of electronic recording.

The resolution was approved. The current practice requires that a physical copy of a record must be given to the county clerk’s office, so that it can be sent to the state in order to have it officially recorded. With this new program, documents will be able to be sent and received electronically, for a fee of $1 to the consumer, creating no fiscal impact for the county’s general fund.