Ken Cuccinelli OK'd Terry McAuliffe deal he's now criticizing in governor race

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Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

When it comes to challenging Democrat Terry McAuliffe's business chops, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has found a new venture to criticize: Franklin Pellets, a manufacturing outfit in Hampton Roads backed by an investment group that includes McAuliffe and some of his buddies.

Franklin Pellets was looking to take over a failing paper company in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia with hopes of turning leftover wood from the timber industry into pellets that could be used for renewable energy. The company has yet to produce the pellets, however, prompting Cuccinelli to charge that it is another GreenTech Automotive, McAuliffe's Mississippi electric car company that has not begun production.

But in 2012, Cuccinelli actually played a key role in helping Franklin Pellets arrange a deal with the state. The attorney general signed off on a contract in September 2012 that allowed ecoFUELS Pellet Storage, the sister company of Franklin Pellets, to rent space with the Virginia Port Authority, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by The Washington Examiner.

As attorney general, Cuccinelli's office provides counsel to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on contracts. McDonnell also approved the lease.

The contract allows ecoFUELS Pellet Storage to rent a 650,000-square-foot space on port property for the next 20 years. EcoFUELS Pellet Storage is a subsidiary of ecoFUELS, which is also a parent company to Franklin Pellets. Franklin Pellets is expected to handle the manufacturing side of the business while ecoFUELS is in charge of distribution.

The Tidewater News reported over the weekend the Franklin Pellets has not yet begun production, though McAuliffe and others involved with the deal said there are plans to proceed. It's similar to what Virginians have heard from GreenTech Automotive, which has not yet met the lofty job creation projections McAuliffe promised.

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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