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Macon-Bibb Industrial Authority hears from public on proposed $500 million in bonds for recycling plant

The Authority is talking about approving up to half-a-billion dollars in revenue bonds to Brightmark Plastics Renewal facility

MACON, Ga. — The "world's largest advanced plastics recycling and renewal facility" is coming to Macon.

But before that move happens, the Industrial Authority may have to authorize a pretty hefty loan. The authority is talking about approving up to half-a-billion dollars in revenue bonds to Brightmark Plastics Renewal.

Monday morning, the Authority heard from the public -- mainly concerned citizens and environmental groups -- about whether they should authorize that $500 million loan. The money would go toward construction of the over 5 million-square-foot facility on Walden Road.

The Industrial Authority's Executive Director, Stephen Adams, says for this type of bond, under federal law, there has to be a conduit government issuer. In this case, that's the Industrial Authority. They'll issue the bonds on Brightmark's behalf.

But to be clear, the Industrial Authority isn't on the hook for the bonds. 

"Brightmark is solely responsible... our project in Macon... for the debt there, the bonds that would be issued," said Brightmark CEO Bob Powell. 

Powell says this deal is necessary for the project to be economically viable.

"We are going to have to not only invest our own Brightmark equity, but generally try to seek debt on a project to make it work," he said. 

Out of dozens who spoke at the public hearing Monday morning, an overwhelming majority spoke out against the deal and the company's move to Macon. 

Many people expressed concerns about the plant's impact on the environment.

"They can't push it through. We have got to have an environmental impact study to see how it's going to affect everybody involved. The wildlife, our rivers, the state of Georgia, and we just think it's unfair for $500 million dollars of bond money to go out without any study for the people. We just think we deserve a voice," said Save our Rivers Inc. president, Peg Jones. 

Brightmark says their plants heat plastics until they are vaporized and then lets those vapors condense into things like diesel fuel and wax.

"When we finish this, it is really going to be something that the community is proud about," Powell said. 

Now, much of the conversation in that hearing focused on concerns about air quality and other environmental impacts the plant could have. Powell says Brightmark doesn't incinerate plastics and that their emissions will be comparable to the amount of emissions of a medium-size hospital.

In June, Brightmark announced it planned to build the facility. In that announcement, the company said it planned to invest more than $680 million into the Macon plant. 

13WMAZ asked Adams when the authority may vote on it. At this time, a date for the vote has not been announced. 

In a statement, the authority said there are "numerous other steps and requirements remaining in the process prior to the issuance of any bonds to finance, and the marketing or sale of bonds to finance the Brightmark facility has not yet been approved."

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