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|Moret disputes Energy Department statement about V-Vehicle project|
The U.S. Department of Energy is in the final stages of an environmental assessment study of the V-Vehicle project, which must be completed by March 1 for the company to be granted local and state incentive monies.
That's according to Stephen Moret, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development Corp., who talked to The Ouachita Citizen Tuesday while he was in Monroe to meet with regional economic development officials.
Last week, Ebony Meeks, an Energy Department spokesperson, told The Ouachita Citizen that the Energy Department's environmental assessment study for the V-Vehicle project could take six to nine months to complete. She also said the Energy Department was in the beginning stages of that study.
Moret's take on the status of the Energy Department's environmental assessment differed from Meeks' comments about it.
Though six to nine months is the "typical time" to prepare an environmental assessment study for a project like V-Vehicle's, "the V-Vehicle assessment is actually toward the end of that period and not at the beginning of it," according to Moret.
In January, the Department of Energy notified the Ouachita Parish Police Jury via a letter that it would conduct an environmental assessment study of the V-Vehicle project.
"The timing of that letter was a little surprising because most of the environmental work has been done well before that letter had been sent out," Moret said.
According to Moret, V-Vehicle has obtained most of the regulatory permits it needs for its site, the former Guide plant in eastern Ouachita Parish off Interstate 20.
"I don't want to speak for the company or DOE, but what I do know is they are very close to the finish line in DOE's ATVM ( Advanced Technologies and Vehicles Manufacturing) process," Moret said. "I don't anticipate the environmental assessment will threaten this timeline for the project."
V-Vehicle is seeking a roughly $300 million loan from the Department of Energy to provide financing for the company's plans to establish an automobile manufacturing operation at the former Guide plant.
Local governments along with the Ouachita Economic Development Land Corp. and the Interstate 20 Economic Development District pledged $15 million in local incentives to entice V-Vehicle to locate in Ouachita Parish.
Last fall, Ouachita Parish voters approved a 1.8-mill property tax to help pay for local governments' pledge to provide some $11.5 million in incentives to help lure V-Vehicle to northern Louisiana. The cities of Monroe and West Monroe and the Ouachita Parish Police Jury agreed to put up the $11.5 million. Ouachita Economic Development Land Corp. and the Interstate 20 Economic Development District pledged the remainder of the $15 million incentives package.
A resolution the Ouachita Parish Police Jury approved concerning the local incentives package for V-Vehicle says the company must have some $350 million in capital in place by March 1 to access the $15 million local incentives package. For months, V-Vehicle officials have said publicly or have alluded that the loan V-Vehicle sought from the Department of Energy was necessary for V-Vehicle to have its capital in place by the March 1 deadline.
Besides the local incentives package, V-Vehicle also is being assisted by the state, which is contributing some $113.6 million in incentives to the company. More said the company will only receive the full projected benefits if they meet all of their employment and capital investment commitments and sustain those employment levels for the full term of the agreement (roughly 15 years).