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Alaska editorial: All clear - Healy restart plan passes 30-day test

Posted: November 22, 2012 - 12:00am

This editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

It might come as somewhat of a surprise, but no one has objected to the proposed agreement that Golden Valley Electric Association and the state of Alaska have reached with the federal government regarding the hoped-for restart of the Healy Clean Coal Plant.

That’s good news.

Objections could have delayed implementation of the agreement, which is a legal document known as a consent decree. The 30-day window in which objections could be filed has closed. All that remains is for a judge to give approval.

Fairbanks needs the power from the coal-fired plant, which can produce electricity that costs less than the power produced at GVEA’s diesel-fired generators. The rising price of diesel has changed the economics of the Healy plant, making its restart a smart investment by GVEA.

But getting to this point wasn’t as easy as just asking the Environmental Protection Agency if it was OK to get the plant going again.

No, there had to be assurances that air quality wouldn’t be harmed.

To that end, GVEA agrees in the consent decree to make some substantial investments in the Healy plant. In addition to the $50 million cost to buy the plant from the state, GVEA has agreed to install about $40 million of pollution controls at the plant. The utility cooperative will also be spending about an additional $20 million to get the plant running. And it agreed to accelerate by two years the installation of $5 million in pollution controls at the adjacent Healy No. 1 power plant.

Getting the Healy Clean Coal Plant going again after more than a decade of its silence will be a major achievement.

The energy landscape has changed. Consumers and businesses need help dealing with high energy costs.

Certainly no one can object to that.

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