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Foes: Plan to burn fowl fecal fuel stinks

Poop power seemed like a godsend — possibly the perfect way to prevent the kind of mess Hurricane Floyd made 10 years ago when it flooded lagoons filled with fetid pig waste. Lawmakers had that in mind two years ago when they set quotas for utilities to buy power generated through alternative sources. Not long after that, Langhorne, Pa.-based Fibrowatt LLC announced it would build a plant in Sampson County that would burn chicken litter to make electricity. “We’d hoped people would recognize the tremendous benefits,” spokesman Terry Walmsley says. “This is for poultry waste, not swine, but the principle is the same.”

Opponents, though, are raising a stink. Citizens for a Safe Environment, founded in neighboring Duplin County nine years ago to fight a regional landfill, is lobbying legislators to effectively ban the plant. It says a Fibrowatt operation in Benson, Minn., emits harmful amounts of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and other pollutants. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People complains that the company would operate in a part of Sampson County populated mostly by blacks, off Interstate 40 near Faison, and would send a steady stream of waste trucks past homes.

Fibrowatt remains unruffled and still hopes to complete the $200 million plant in 2012. Two other power stations, in Montgomery and Surry counties, are in the works. It has taken a soft-sell approach in Sampson, responding to concerns at open-house meetings. “The fact that we’re developing a sizable industrial project in a rural area means people are wary,” Walmsley says. “That’s natural. A lot aren’t opposed to it as an entity — just not in my backyard.”

Because it’s near lots of poultry farmers, the plant will minimize truck travel, and the vehicles will be tightly sealed to prevent odor, he says. It will employ 100 and produce about 55 megawatts of electricity — enough for about 40,000 houses. Waste will be stored inside and burned in a way that minimizes odor. “It’ll have a minimum impact on health and the environment.”

The next step, Walmsley says, is getting utilities to sign power-purchase agreements. Without them, the plan will never hatch, and the opposition hasn’t helped. “We haven’t progressed as fast as we’d hoped. It’s all new to everybody.”

WILMINGTONCooperative Banksharesmust raise $25 million by mid-July to allay regulators’ concerns about its capital. It must also get approval before paying dividends.

LITTLETONFASTA plans to open a factory in June that will employ 105 making steel panels and trusses. The Sterling, Va., company, started in 2005, will pay an average of $28,707 a year. The Halifax County average is $25,844.

TARBOROHC Composites will expand and add 120 workers in three years, bringing the total to 180. The catamaran maker does business as World Cat. The new jobs will average $29,560 a year. The Edgecombe County average is $32,084.

OCRACOKE — Due to budget cuts, state ferry boats will make just six daily round trips, instead of the usual 10, between here and the mainland this summer. A ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke islands will keep its regular summer schedule.

KINSTON — John Chaffee replaced Al Delia as CEO of the 13-county North Carolina’s Eastern Region, which promotes economic development. Delia left to become Gov. Beverly Perdue’s policy director. Chaffee was director of the eastern office of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

WILMINGTONPort City Java, which operates more than 40 cafes and coffee houses, promoted Steve Schnitzler, 40, from director of operations to CEO, a new position. Founder and former chief operating officer Don Reynolds, 49, left in December.

LUMBERTON — Charlotte-based Piedmont Natural Gas postponed construction for three years of a $300 million warehouse for liquefied natural gas. Construction is now slated to start in 2012. The state’s largest gas utility reported a 2% drop in net income in its latest quarter.

OAK ISLAND — Despite opposition from residents, the Oak Island Town Council approved a plan to buy Yaupon Beach Fishing Pier, which fell into foreclosure last year, for $1.5 million. The town wants to lease it to a private company.