‘Project USA’ Revealed as County Paves Way for Wood Chipping Plant

WINNSBORO – After months of secrecy, County Council revealed Monday night the identity of the company that will be the recipient of a new Fee-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (FILOT) agreement.

Prior to the third and final reading of an ordinance establishing the FILOT, Interim Administrator Milton Pope said AEC Pellet 1 USA, LLC, the company previously referred to as “Project USA,” plans to construct a wood chipping facility off Highway 321 N. in Winnsboro. Pope said the terms of the FILOT include a $125 million investment by the company, as well as the creation of 75 new full-time jobs. AEC Pellet will be assessed at a ratio of 6 percent, Pope said, and will pay a fixed millage rate of 423.3 mills for their first 30 years. They will also receive a special source revenue credit of 60 percent per year for the first 10 years.

According to documents on file with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), AEC Pellet applied for their Synthetic Minor Construction Permit through the Bureau of Air Quality last December. A public notice was posted to the DHEC website last February, with the comment period closing on March 12.

According to the notice, AEC intends to construct and operate a wood pellet manufacturing facility on Cason Road in Winnsboro. The facility would have an annual production rate of 530,000 tons, with a minimum hourly production rate of 71 tons.

The manufacturing process comprises four units, the DHEC documents state, to include a wood yard, a drying process, a pelletizing process and a storage/load-out area. Equipment would include dryers, pelletizing lines (hammermills, pellet mills and pellet coolers), storage and load-out silos and telescopic sleeves.

According to the DHEC documents, emissions generated by the facility would include particulate matter (less than 10 micrometers in diameter and less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter), nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP). If approved, the notice states, “a federally enforceable facility-wide limit of less than 250 tons per year” of the particulate matters, the carbon monoxide and VOC “would be established, thereby enabling the facility to be below Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) major source thresholds.”

Federally enforceable limits of 10 tons per year would also be established “of any single HAP, or less than 25 (tons per year) of total HAPs,” the documents state.

An air quality permit (permit number 1000-0039-CA) was issued to AEC Pellet on March 16, DHEC said.

“As this comes to fruition, this is going to be tremendous for us,” Pope said Monday night, “and it has the potential to have an impact on our timber industry.”

Elite, LLC

Council also Monday night transferred its existing FILOT agreement with Elite, LLC to Caterpillar, Inc., Elite’s new owners.

“Nothing changes in the documentation,” Pope said, “we’re just assigning those to the Caterpillar Corporation.”


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