Gov’t Begins Assessment Of V-Vehicle For Loan

U.S. Department of Energy said it is preparing an environmental assessment of the V-Vehicle project as part of its review of a federal loan to the company.

MONROE, La. (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Energy has notified the Ouachita Parish Police Jury that it is preparing an environmental assessment of the V-Vehicle project as part of its review of a federal loan to the company.

In a memo sent to the Police Jury and the state Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Energy said it would begin conducting an environmental assessment of V-Vehicle's proposed project as part of a $320 million low-interest loan application from the company. V-Vehicle's biggest application for $250 million is for manufacturing and the other $70 million is for engineering.

V-Vehicle needs to secure the loan before its March 1 deadline from local and state governments, which have promised their own incentive packages. The company plans to begin production of its V Car, a four-door hatchback, in early 2011 at the former Guide Corp. plant in Ouachita Parish just east of Monroe.

"It's very encouraging," said Ouachita Parish Police Jury President Shane Smiley. "We remain optimistic they are going to get the loan and hopeful it will come through in a timely manner."

Last week, the police jury gave preliminary approval to the issuance of $ll,550,000 of tax bonds for the V-Vehicle Co. The bond issue will be presented to the Louisiana Bond Commission next month for approval.

Ouachita Parish voters in October approved a 15-year, 1.8-mill property tax to help fund a $15 million local incentive package for V-Vehicle Co. The tax was included on property owners' tax bills for 2009.

V-Vehicle has raised about $100 million in private capital and received an $87 million grant package that includes $82 million in state and local money. Company officials hoped to have already have a decision on its loan application under the Department of Energy's $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program.

The program approved $8 billion in loans last June, but approvals have slowed to a snail's pace since then.

Last week, a V-Vehicle spokesman confirmed that company executives, including Chief Executive Frank Varasano, met with Department of Energy officials in Washington to discuss the application.

V-Vehicle must raise $350 million in capital by March 1 to trigger the bulk of the $87 million grant package or ask for an extension.

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