LISBON - The last parcels of land originally intended for the defunct Baard Energy project have been transferred to the investment firm that acquired controlling interest in the property, but what it means is anyone's guess.
The Columbiana County Port Authority recently transferred four parcels totaling 235 acres in Yellow Creek Township to Planck Trading Solutions, bringing it to 510 acres now in the company's name.
The 510 acres originally were supposed to go to Baard Energy, which announced in 2006 it planned to build a $6 billion plant on the site that would convert coal to synthetic diesel and jet fuel. After the project failed to draw interest from private investors, Planck stepped forward in 2010 to provide money to help with the property acquisition.
A year later, Planck acquired controlling interest in the project and announced natural gas would replace coal as the feedstock to produce synthetic fuels. The project also was renamed Pallas Formed Fuels, and that was the last anyone heard publicly.
While Planck purchased the property, it held off acquiring the remaining 235 acres because of a dispute over a $150,000 fee charged by the Port Authority for securing the options on all 510 acres, which were acquired using mostly state funds. There was also the issue of back taxes owed on the 235 acres.
Tim Brookes, Port Authority attorney, said earlier this year Planck finally changed its mind and paid them the $150,000 fee, as well as $27,547 in delinquent taxes.
"We lost nothing on this, with the hope they get this off the ground," he said.
Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake took the latest activity as a hopeful sign. "The fact they want to get the property in their name ... means they still have a desire to do something in Wellsville," he said.
Unlike Baard, Planck has kept a low, almost non-existent public profile. No website can be found for the company, and the man who is believed to be their contact person did not return calls when contacted for this story.
But Drake said he has been in periodic contact with Planck/Pallas. "I guess I could speculate but I'm not going to ... The hope is the company will be ready to move forward," he said.