Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) has been moving to restart the dormant Healy Clean Coal Project power plant (HCCP) for the past three years since completing an agreement with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority for taking ownership of the plant. DCC has long had concerns about the plant because of its potential threat to Denali National Park’s Class I airshed and the now much-documented concerns about air pollutants in local communities. We are also concerned about the carbon dioxide released from coal burning and its contribution to global climate change. Despite believing it is a bad project in the wrong place, we have not objected outright to the restart of HCCP. Rather, we have made efforts to ensure that a restart would include measures to mitigate the air pollution impacts associated with the burning of coal.
There are significant environmental issues with the HCCP restart, and questions regarding how EPA air quality regulations are properly applied when a plant starts up after being moth-balled for a decade. As a result, GVEA has been negotiating an agreement on its air quality permit with DCC and several state and national conservation organizations. Represented by attorneys at Trustees for Alaska, we worked in good faith for many months to create a restart plan for HCCP permitting that would be acceptable to everyone. In December 2011, we structured a deal that required sacrifices on both sides but represented an acceptable compromise to achieve long-term protection of public health and park air quality while meeting GVEA’s projected energy needs. However, despite initially indicating acceptance of the terms of the agreement, GVEA abruptly quit talking and moved forward with the air quality permit without finishing the deal.
To keep our options open for getting the best overall solutions for local community and national park air quality, DCC has joined with other conservation organizations in filing a petition with the Environmental Protection Agency objecting to the air quality permit issued to GVEA by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. We do hope that GVEA decides to return to the table to resurrect the deal previously agreed upon. Although GVEA has stated that conservation organizations are preventing the plant from operating, nothing to date has prevented GVEA from operating this facility. Further, we thought we had a mutually acceptable agreement. At this point, GVEA seems to be the main obstacle to restarting HCCP.