Resource & Industrial Development

DCC Joins Petition on HCCP Air Quality Permit

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.

Petition to Object to Title V Air Quality Permit for HCCP


2 thoughts on “DCC Joins Petition on HCCP Air Quality Permit

  • Lauri Sliney

    You don’t tell the whole truth about your objections to the HCCP. April 25, 2012, the membership of GVEA learned the truth about the “deal” you and other conservation organizations were insisting upon. You would allow GVEA to restart this clean coal plant that will burn naturally low-sulfur Healy coal only if the board would agree to shut it down after 10-15 years — about 1/3 of the active life of such a plant, thereby saddling GVEA members with a huge debt the benefits of which would never be realized. Those of us who took economics in college know that a power plant doesn’t produce actual economic savings until after the debt on it has been paid off — which will be about 12 years after the start-up of HCCP. We don’t have a gasline built yet and after 40 years of hearing the promise of one, I don’t think it will be built in my lifetime. The oil companies are going to continue to gouge us on crude and the price of diesel is tied to that. The magic energy fairies have yet to make solar or wind a viable alternative to fossil fuels for electric generation. So, we’d be a decade out, with a plant that had not paid for itself yet, and you would expect us to shut down a perfectly good plant and go back on diesel when oil would likely be $200 a barrel. From the pespective of intelligent, educated people, this is a recipe for future disaster.

    What disappoints me more than anything is that your folks claim to be Alaskans, yet you have ZERO concern for your fellow Alaskans survival needs. I don’t know how you light your homes and, frankly, I suspect none of your members actually lives in Alaska in the winter, but my electric bill for a modest sized home with four people ran $200 a month last winter. We hunkered down in one room, burned a lot of wood (oh, my, another pollutant you would probably like to ban) and ate a lot of beans and rice in order to afford what little electricity we use. We’ve cut our consumption by more than 40% over the last decade. We simply cannot cut anymore. Unless you folks want to take over paying my electric and heating bills, I suggest you stop trying to tell Alaskans that you have our best interests in mind when you want to outlaw heating and lighting our homes. Reality is, coal is what we as a community can afford. The technology, if you’d bother to do some homework, makes HCCP a healthy alternative. In fact, it may be healthier for the environment than diesel generation.

    Just so you know, I’m suggesting to the MAC committee and the GVEA board, that if your organization buys even one kilowatt of electricity from GVEA, that they cut you off. Maybe when you are sitting in the dark, you’ll buy a clue as to why HCCP is no longer just an option for Fairbanks’ electrical needs. It’s a necessity!

  • Thanks for the detailed comment.

    DCC has been involved from the beginning of the Healy Clean Coal Plant project as an intervenor to ensure that this plant, funded by federal clean coal funds, lives up to its name. We are certain that this plant was closed down for several years after initial tests in the late nineties ran into trouble. Our organizations had nothing to do with that decision, made by GVEA, to stop trying to operate the plant. GVEA’s abandonment of the plant and their continuing litigation with AIDEA for several years are written history. Those who would accuse “environmental” organizations of delaying this plant’s restart have got to tell you the whole history, including that part of the history.

    We at DCC stand ready to continue negoatiations to make this plant’s emissions as clean as can be done with existing technology. Because it was shut down for many years, a review of best available technology is indicated before a restart can occur. We have negotiated with GVEA in good faith and have never abandoned the negotiating table. We’re convinced that our involvement can and will result in a cleaner plant. Given the nearness of our core constituency to this plant, we view our involvement as necessary.

    As to ratepayer concerns – many forces are raising your rates, of which the Healy Plant is a small part. Those who would tar and feather DCC with a broad brush using simplistic, incomplete and historically slanted arguments do all of us a disservice.

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