By Ted Shorack

The Bulletin

Deschutes County commissioners are sticking with a proposed methane gas energy project at the Knott Landfill despite financial delays and missed deadlines.

The board approved an amended contract and extension with Waste to Energy Group on Monday, which was when the California company was supposed to begin operations under the original contract signed in January 2014.

“I think everybody assumed that financing for the project was going to happen relatively soon after we signed the contract,” said Deschutes County Solid Waste Director Timm Schimke. “That has not been the case. They have struggled to find financing over the course of these 18 months.”

The newly approved contract requires the company to reach benchmarks indicating its progress in the coming years. The company will be required to become operational by March 2018.

Waste to Energy is required under the new contract to submit analysis and engineering plans to the county by January. Other benchmarks include gaining land use approval from the county by May 2016 and obtaining an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality permit by October 2016.

“We have a very favorable contract for the county; everything is at our sole discretion,” said Schimke.

The board could choose to terminate the contract if the conditions aren’t met moving forward.

Schimke said the contract doesn’t allow for the company to use financial hardships as a valid reason for extending deadlines.

“We’re putting a special emphasis on that,” he said.

The project is expected to cost the company about $20 million. Waste to Energy plans to collect natural gas from underneath the landfill, which is southeast of Bend, and turn it into liquid fuel.

The county isn’t responsible for any of the costs associated with the project but will receive $240,000 a year from the company, or 4 percent of the gross revenue, whichever is larger.

The company is expected to spend an initial $1 million doing fieldwork at the landfill to evaluate the potential for energy production, Schimke said.

Prior to voting on the contract at their meeting Monday, county commissioners remained optimistic about the project’s potential success. The board also said the project could lead to subsequent opportunities for energy collection and dealing with waste at the landfill.

“There’s some wonderful reasons why this project would be a great opportunity for the citizens of the area. … I’m still excited with the fact that we’ve got a cutting-edge project being proposed,” said Commissioner Tony DeBone.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, tshorack@bendbulletin.com

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