Jackson County loses deal for $2 billion energy plant

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - It was the news Jackson County economic leaders did not want to hear. The $2 billion project that was expected to bring new jobs and more tax dollars to the county has been canceled. The Jackson County Economic Foundation announced Tuesday that the Mississippi Gasification, LLC. will not be extending its option to lease the former site of the International Paper Mill in Moss Point.

County leaders said they're not letting this bad news stop them from looking for a new land deal. The nearly 200 acre International Paper Mill in Moss Point will have to sit empty a little while longer now that the $2 billion deal has been dropped.

"We were certainly disappointed when we found out that Mississippi Gasification would not be renewing the lease option," said Jackson County Economic Director Freeland.

Back in 2008, the county and port authority agreed to a lease option agreement for $11,000 a month. When that contract ran out last year, county officials said the company agreed to sign on for 12 more months. The plan was to turn a byproduct of crude oil into substitute natural gas, but the energy project seemed to never get off the ground.

"Over the last several years, the oil industry has not been very volatile. The price of natural gas has dropped, so the cost to produce substitute natural gas dropped too. The Mississippi Gasification began to look at other potential products such as methanol," Jackson County Supervisor Melton Harris said.

Supervisor Melton Harris represents the area where the plant was set to go up. He's disappointed because the project would have created about 200 good paying jobs and extra revenue for the county's economy.

"Moss Point needed a boost of something of that sort and that site since IP left that site, and Moss Point School system," Harris said.

But county leaders said they are not giving up on a replacement for the property just yet on this site.  They have already started looking for potential industries.

The site has all the ingredients to attract a new, modern industrial user and it's our obligation to make sure that in fact that does happen," Freeland said. "With rail connectivity, port access, interstate access, redundant electric supply, the property has all the features necessary to attract a broad range of industrial users. So, we are a little disappointed, but we are extremely confident that right project will eventually locate on that property."

The county officials said they collected more than $2 million from the company.

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