EPA sets new hearings on WTE plant
Energy Answers International Inc. has proposed to construct a new 77-megawatt facility at the former site of the Global Fibers paper mill in the Barrio Cambalache area of the north coast municipality.
The EPA scheduled the new hearings and extended the comment period on the proposed $500 million waste-to-energy (WTA) project following its abrupt cancellation of a planned hearing in late June after determining “that it was not possible to provide the intended productive opportunity for people to comment on the draft permit.”
The cancelled hearing at the University of Puerto Rico Arecibo campus on the EPA’s proposed draft permit for the project was part of a broader public comment period that was to end on June 29.
The EPA is proposing an air permit for the facility after evaluating the potential impact of the facility on air quality by comparing it to EPA air quality standards which are established to protect public health. The EPA’s evaluation also included assessing the impact of the facility on nearby low-income communities. Based on information available to date, EPA has concluded that operation of the facility will not cause any health standards to be exceeded or any communities to be disproportionately and adversely impacted.
To obtain an the EPA permit, Energy Answers was also required to demonstrate that the pollution controls on the plant are as strict or stricter than any other plant being built in the United States today. The EPA has included these pollution controls, which are considered the best pollution control technology available, as requirements in the proposed permit.
The proposed permit also requires Energy Answers to test the pollution it emits to the atmosphere. Before the facility can begin full operation it must demonstrate it meets the pollution limits the EPA is proposing to establish. The permit requires pollution levels to be measured and reported to the EPA during operation. Failure to meet any of these standards would subject the facility to EPA enforcement actions.
The proposed WTE plant would have the capacity to burn more than 2,000 tons of trash daily, producing some 80 megawatts of alternative energy in the process. Energy Answers says the plant would pump $350 million into the island economy and create 3,800 jobs during the construction phase.
The plant will represent a private sector investment of approximately $500 million in renewable energy and solid waste management infrastructure and provide approximately 150 new, “green collar” permanent jobs, according to Energy Answers.
The company has said the plant could be in service in the next three years and would establish an advanced materials recovery and recycling operation.
“This will dramatically lessen Puerto Rico’s reliance on its severely limited landfill space; make a significant positive impact on the island’s recycling rate and reduce decrease the environmental impact on the water, land and air resource of Puerto Rico,” Energy Answers officials said.
The EPA will hold five formal public hearing sessions spread over three days from August 25-27.
The sessions will run on Saturday August 25 and Sunday, August 26 from 1:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. On Monday, August 27, a session will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The hearing sessions will all be held at the Arecibo Lions Club on Ing. Manuel T. Gillan Avenue in the El Tanque area of Arecibo.
The EPA will accept written comments or written presentations at the hearing and will allow each person wishing to give oral testimony for up to 10 minutes. Oral testimony and written comments submitted during the public hearing or anytime during the public comment period will be given equal consideration.
For the first four sessions on August 25 and 26, people who register ahead of time will be given preference in filling slots to testify in each session. People who register at the door will be accommodated in that session only if there are slots left in that session. If that session is full, the EPA will give that person a choice of sessions and still have open slots. The final session on August 27 will be preserved to accommodate those who signed up to, but were not able to, testify at previous sessions.
To pre-register for August 25 or 26, contact John Aponte of the EPA Caribbean Environmental Protection Division Office by email at Aponte.email@example.com or phone at 787-977-5853.
The EPA is extending the public comment period to coincide with the conclusion of the additional hearing sessions. Written comments may be submitted at any time during the comment period, which remains open until August 27. EPA’s final permit decision will be made only after full consideration of all public comments received.
Members of the public wishing to review the administrative record for the proposed decision, which includes all documents relevant to the EPA’s proposed permit, can make an appointment Monday – Friday between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. in the EPA’s Caribbean Environmental Protection Division at City View Plaza III-Suite 7000 in Guaynabo. To make an appointment, contact John Aponte by email at Aponte.firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 787-977-5853. The documents are also available online through the Interamerican University-Arecibo Campus website at http://www.arecibo.inter.edu/