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Big Island power plant pollution permit rejected

By Star-Advertiser Staff

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 11:46 a.m. HST, Feb 11, 2014



HILO, Hawaii >> The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the state's Clean Air Branch to modify or reissue an air-pollution permit for a proposed Big Island power plant that would generate electricity from eucalyptus trees and other plant matter.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy ruled Friday the Clean Air Branch failed to take into consideration pollutants that would be generated by the startup, shutdown or malfunction of the Hu Honua Bioenergy plant, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (http://bit.ly/1nspm2l) reported.

The branch will correct the permit and respond to EPA's objection, said Nolan Hirai, the branch's acting manager.

The Clean Air Branch, which is part of the state Department of Health, has until early May to propose a new permit. The current permit will remain valid while the branch drafts another, said Kerry Drake, associate director of the Air Division in EPA's San Francisco office.

The project has been unpopular with some nearby residents, who have objected to pollutants, noise and traffic the facility would cause.

A community group, Preserve Pepeekeo Health and Environment, filed a petition under the Clean Air Act asking the EPA to formally object to the permit. McCarthy partially granted and partially denied the petition in her 32-page opinion.

Mark Chytilo, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based attorney representing the community group, said the decision means the plant will have to come up with a more aggressive pollution-control technology.

The consequences of the decision go beyond Hu Honua, he said.

"You may say, on one hand, biofuel, what a great idea to reduce our burning of fossil fuels for greenhouse gas purposes. But the reality is that there's new analysis coming out that even burning wood waste may not be beneficial from a greenhouse-gas perspective," he said.

Hu Honua is also facing legal problems.

Its previous general contractor, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. of Honolulu, has filed a lien against it in Hilo Circuit Court, saying Hu Honua owes more than $35 million in unpaid bills. Several subcontractors and suppliers have also recently filed claims.

The company last Thursday issued a written statement saying it has a new general contractor, Performance Mechanical Inc. of Pittsburg, Calif.

Hu Honua signed an agreement two years ago to supply the Big Island utility Hawaiian Electric Light with power. Hu Honua estimated at the time that it would supply 10 percent of the island's electricity needs.

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Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/






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