Pence renews talks over $2.1B fertilizer plant

Indiana economic development officials have renewed talks with developers who want to build a $2.1 billion fertilizer plant in southwestern Indiana, one year after the state withdrew its support for the project over national security concerns.

The state withdrew financial support last May for the plant proposed by Midwest Fertilizer Co. after a military official raised the prospect of the company's involvement in the making of roadside bombs in Afghanistan.

Midwest Fertilizer Co. is owned by the Fatima Group, a company based in Lahore, Pakistan, that already manufactures fertilizer in the south Asian country.

But Gov. Mike Pence announced Tuesday that the state was renewing talks with the company after a review by the U.S. Department of Defense found the project's developers have been cooperating with the government.

"Following Indiana's withdrawal of support for this project, U.S. officials have reported that the government of Pakistan and Fatima Group have provided an unprecedented level of cooperation and transparency in addressing the concerns that precipitated the withdrawal of our support," Pence said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

Pentagon officials who spoke with Pence this week confirmed that an experimental fertilizer formula being developed by the Fatima Group would be harder to use in the construction of bombs, according to the statement. U.S. officials also told Pence the government of Pakistan and the Fatima Group are making it harder for terrorists and extremists to obtain the company's products.

"This week, the state of Indiana was informed that our defense experts completed the second series of tests on the experimental formula and described Fatima Group's efforts to improve the safety of its fertilizer as 'commendable,'" Pence said in the statement.

Pence first learned about concerns with the project the same month he took office last year, then decided in May to withdraw the state's support so his administration could review it.

The state originally supported building the plant in the Port of Mt. Vernon. But the plant would now be built on a different 219-acre site near the Ohio River, after approval last year from the Posey County Commissioners. Plant officials told Evansville Courier & Press last fall they plan to produce urea ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that is not used in explosives.

Posey County officials quickly stepped in last year after the state withdrew its support and offered financial incentives to the developers, including $1.3 billion in bond sales to finance the project. The county effectively filled the role that the Indiana Finance Authority had been filling when it first offered the financing.

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