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Blunt brothers deny connection to cousin's ethanol plant

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The CEO of a Mount Vernon-based limited liability company said his cousin – Gov. Matt Blunt – isn’t directly or indirectly involved in his company’s plans to build at least three ethanol plants in Missouri, including one near Rogersville.

Greg Wilmoth, of Mount Vernon, is a first cousin once-removed to Blunt, who signed new ethanol standards into law this summer that will require gasoline sold in Missouri to contain at least 10 percent ethanol by Jan. 1, 2008. Blunt’s grandmother, Betty Ray, and Wilmoth’s mother, Helen Wilmoth, are sisters.

Blunt spokesman Brian Hauswirth said the governor is not affiliated in any way with Gulfstream Bioflex Energy, the company Wilmoth formed in May to finance and construct the plants, which will produce ethanol fuel from corn.

“No member of the Blunt family … has any direct or indirect financial or personal involvement with Gulfstream Bioflex Energy or any of my other businesses,” Wilmoth said in a Nov. 7 statement.

Hauswirth said the governor did not refer any investors to GBE, which is financing the plants through a combination of private equity groups, senior lenders, subordinated lenders and possibly government incentives. GBE has secured an estimated $600 million needed to build the three plants, according to Wilmoth.

The first plant is planned on 252 acres east of Rogersville, where GBE is drilling test wells to determine if the groundwater supply can deliver the 880 gallons per minute needed for ethanol production. The company hasn’t said where the other two plants would be built.

A group of property owners concerned about the plant’s impact on their groundwater filed a lawsuit against GBE in August. At GBE’s request, the case has been reassigned to a circuit judge in Boone County who will hear arguments on the plaintiffs’ motion for a court injunction Nov. 20.

Lobbyist Blunt says no, too

Gov. Blunt’s brother, Jefferson City lobbyist Andy Blunt, likewise dispelled rumors that he had invested in GBE or assisted the company in its fund-raising efforts.

Andy Blunt said he doesn’t have a financial stake in GBE and sounded surprised to learn that his cousin was behind the proposed plant near Rogersville.

“Oh, is he?” Blunt said. “I don’t have anything to do with that.”

Andy Blunt is familiar with ethanol production, though.

Last month, the Associated Press reported that he had invested in Central Missouri Biofuels LLC. The company had 10 percent ownership in Show Me Ethanol, which plans to build an ethanol plant in the northeast Missouri town of Carrolton.

Show Me Ethanol has applied for a $48 million linked-deposit loan administered by the state treasurer’s office, which has a conflict-of-interest policy that prohibits elected officials or their family members from participating in the program.

The loan program deposits state money collateralized with a treasury certificate or irrevocable letter of credit into Missouri banks at a reduced interest rate. The lower interest rate is then transferred to qualifying borrowers whose value-added agricultural business is expected to create jobs and expand markets for farm products.

“We have not been contacted by Gulfstream,” said state treasury spokesman Mark Hughes.

GBE has made contact with the Missouri Department of Economic Development regarding various economic development and tax incentive programs. DED spokesman Gregg Ochoa said he could not discuss details regarding the company’s inquiry.

DED offers discretionary tax breaks to ethanol production companies owned by a majority of farmers, and in August, Gov. Blunt barred the state from extending the tax breaks to corporately owned ethanol plants.

Plant contractor chosen

GBE won’t know whether its proposed ethanol plant is feasible until test drilling at the site is complete, Wilmoth said, suggesting the test wells are almost complete.

Even if GBE decides to build the plant, construction can’t begin until the company obtains the necessary permits from the state Department of Natural Resources, Wilmoth said.

Kansas City-based Walton Construction Co. has been selected as the general contractor for the plant, which will be able to produce 100 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol each year.

Wilmoth said construction on a plant that size generally takes 15 months, depending on weather.

Walton Construction has never built an ethanol plant, said Rick Quint, senior vice president and managing director of the company’s Springfield office.

Wilmoth said GBE has selected an engineering firm, corn supplier and resellers for ethanol fuel and dried-distillers grains, a byproduct that can be reused as livestock feed, although he declined to name any of the firms.

Wilmoth also has declined to name any of GBE’s investors. He did, however, indicate that Missouri farmers have ownership in the plant but said GBE would remain a privately held company.

Ethanol production companies in Missouri that are majority-owned by agriculture producers are eligible for an attractive financial incentive administered by the state Department of Agriculture.

Under the Ethanol Incentive Fund, ethanol producers receive 20 cents a gallon for the first 12.5 million gallons of fuel produced and 5 cents a gallon for the second 12.5 million gallons.

When Gov. Blunt signed the new ethanol standards into law this summer, a news release emphasized that he was the first Missouri governor to recommend full funding for the Ethanol Incentive Fund in his budget to the General Assembly. Since taking office in 2004, Blunt has directed $16.5 million to the fund, according to the release.

Family Ties

Greg Wilmoth’s family has been in the transportation and fuel distribution industries since the 1950s. His family’s holdings include Wilmoth Enterprises, Ozark Mountain Petroleum and Nick’s Transport, a trucking company.

Wilmoth also is CEO and President of Gulfstream Bioflex Energy, a limited liability company that plans to build at least three ethanol plants in Missouri.

In February, Wilmoth was elected to a four-year term on the Missouri Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association Board of Directors. The association, which represents some 570 independent petroleum marketers and convenience store operators, suppliers and associated industry companies, is a member of Petroleum Marketers Association of America, a national lobbying organization.

Since 1999, PMAA has given $9,000 in campaign contributions to southwest Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt, according to Federal Election Commission records. Blunt is the father of Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt.

In 2003 and 2004, Jeff Negre, vice president of Gulfstream Bioflex Energy, gave $2,425 to Gov. Blunt, an outspoken ethanol proponent. Gov. Blunt and Wilmoth are first cousins once-removed.

Last month, Gov. Blunt urged an Illinois clearinghouse that certifies and approves consumer products to speed up its approval of pumps that will dispense gasoline containing 85 percent ethanol. Blunt noted a potential detriment to proposed ethanol production plants and to the market for the fuel if no timetable is established for approval of the pumps.[[In-content Ad]]

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