Business leaders in Gore are backing a proposal to build a $1.5 billion lignite processing plant, despite concerns from environmental lobby groups.
Solid Energy and Ravensdown propose extracting the massive underground lignite resource in eastern Southland and turning it into urea fertiliser. The plant could create 500 jobs.
The Sustainability Council has questioned the plan, suggesting the emissions will be bad for the environment.
Executive director Simon Terry also says the amount of carbon credits the two companies will receive under the Government's revised emssions trading scheme will be huge.
But Mataura buinsessman, Ian Tulloch, says it's better to produce urea in New Zealand where emissions are closely monitored than import from countries where levels go unchecked.