Council of State gives nod to wood pellet agreement for Port of - WRBL

Council of State gives nod to wood pellet agreement for Port of Morehead City

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MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. -

The Council of State signed off Tuesday on a deal approved last week to build a $25 million export facility at the Port of Morehead City.

About 150 jobs would be created with the construction of the wood pellet export facility in Carteret County. Wood pellets are  an increasingly popular source of renewable energy in Europe.

"This is a great deal for eastern North Carolina. It's our third major multimillion dollar deal in eight months," said Tony Tata, North Carolina transportation secretary.

Last week, the North Carolina State Ports Authority approved a deal with a Raleigh-based company called WoodFuels. The facility would receive, store, load, and ship pellets to Europe.

"I think it's fine. If it helps the port prosper and it doesn't have a deleterious impact on the community it's fine with me," said Dick Bierly, Morehead City resident.

The state Department of Transportation says the facility would bring 150 jobs to North Carolina. Morehead City manager David Whitlow says 15-20 of those would be in Morehead City.

"That'll be a good plus for us," he said.

The president of the WoodFuels, Steve Mueller, says the jobs include everything from shift operators to truck drivers and mechanics.

"The average job is probably anywhere from $16 to $18 an hour, which you know, $42-45,000," said Mueller.

Mueller says he looked up and down the East Coast for a place to put this export facility.

"We wanted to have security of rail unloading, storage, and ship loading, and Morehead is a perfect location for that," said Mueller.

Tata says all the wood pellets that come to port would be brought by train. But that's not expected to increase train traffic. All the wood pellets would be put in extra cars attached to existing trains.

If the council of state approves the deal on Tuesday, construction is expected to begin on the export facility at the beginning of next year.

Whitlow says the wood pellet facility would also bring up to $77,000 in extra tax revenue for the city.

"Our biggest expenditures are in fire/EMS, law enforcement, maintenance of our streets and sidewalks and parts, the operation of a library, so all those things will benefit by seeing more revenue come in," said Whitlow.

The 20-year agreement says the facility would first receive the pellets for shipment late next year. Revenue is estimated at $1.2 million and $2 million annually.

"I am pleased to see that our port infrastructure is playing a role in helping North Carolina, and various industries, grow our economy and create jobs," said Governor Pat McCrory.

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