Ethanol plant proposed for Santa Maria

Development plans for an industrial plant on the Central Coast to produce ethanol have been submitted to Santa Barbara County.

The $216 million project would be the first of its kind in the area and one of the few ethanol plants in California. It’s being proposed by American Ethanol Inc.

The property on farmland west of Santa Maria is currently used for agriculture, but the site is also zoned for industrial use. Existing railroad tracks would be used to transport huge quantities of Midwestern corn that would be fermented to produce ethanol, an alternative fuel and gas additive.American Ethanol’s development application, submitted to the energy division of the county’s Planning and Development Department on Wednesday, will be reviewed over the next few weeks, said county planner Nancy Minnick.

A decision on whether a full environmental impact report is required will be made after a public hearing, she said.

The development application estimates the plant would employ 40 full-time workers and yield $1.5 million annually to county government from property taxes.