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Ethanol plant seeks another loan extension from county

By MICHAEL MARESH, Staff Writer 

Stammaresh@ivpressonline.com

December 3, 20109

EL CENTRO — Imperial County still has hopes for a proposed $900 million ethanol plant to come to fruition. 

County Public Information Officer Linsey Dale said that during the October Agricultural Benefits Committee Meeting meeting, Dave Rubenstein from California Ethanol & Power provided an update on the project and the progress of the last six months. 

Back in May, Rubenstein had promised to give quarterly reports to the county on the progress he had made in securing investors. She said Rubenstein assured the committee that the project is still very much alive and he would have the $900 million investment secured by the first quarter of 2020.

County supervisors originally agreed to loan $625,000 to the project in 2015. Rubenstein reportedly used those funds for engineering work and to be installed on the power grid with the Imperial Irrigation District. 

The county in May granted another six-month extension on the loan’s principal on the condition that $2,000 was paid monthly on interest.

In October, the Agricultural Benefit Committee approved a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to approve a six-month extension to the loan, on the condition that CE&P make a $5,000 payment toward the $625,000 principal of the loan and continue making monthly interest payments on the accrued interest under the loan. 

This recommendation will be considered by the Imperial County Board of Supervisors at a future meeting this month. 

Dale said in an email that the county is confident Rubenstein will move the project forward and that the loan will be repaid in full.

However, the county is currently exploring options to obtain collateral for the loan in the event that the project does not come to fruition, she said. Supervisor Ray Castillo said he thinks Rubenstein is still meeting with potential investors to try to come up with the money. “But nothing is in concrete,” he said, adding that Rubenstein needs to find buyers who are interested in the product. “It’s been a tough road for Dave,” Castillo said. “It started out like a heck of a deal.” 

The California-based renewable energy company was recently granted by unanimous vote a four-year extension for a sales and use tax exclusion by the Board of the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority. Rubenstein and his company intend to convert California grown sugarcane into sustainable low-carbon energy that will be blended into the California transportation fuel market. 

CE&P intends to develop, finance, install, own and operate a series of projects that grow sugarcane, extract and ferment the juice into fuel-grade ethanol and to convert the remaining biomass into electricity.

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