Plans for Healy coal plant to be resubmitted

Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010

FAIRBANKS - The state's top environmental manager said he plans to send new permitting plans for the Healy coal power plant project to the federal government in about six to eight weeks.

The plan was pulled back last week from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after federal officials told Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Larry Hartig they need more time.

"They recognized that it was a unique situation," Hartig told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The experimental power plant, which sits next to Denali National Park and Preserve, has been offline since it was shuttered shortly after a 1999 test run. The Fairbanks-based Golden Valley Electric Association plans to purchase and reopen the 50-megawatt plant.

Hartig said restarting the plant is a highly unusual project for the government. But, he added, he doesn't want the plant to sit idle any longer than necessary.

If the EPA decides the plant was shut down, it could require a redo of the plant's 16-year-old permit review.

The GVEA has said, and the state agrees, that the prep work does not require the rigorous type of federal review needed to start new coal plants. Opponents disagree and are calling for stricter reviews.

Given the tougher emissions standards for coal plants today, a review could doom the restart project. GVEA President Brian Newton has acknowledged that upgrades to the combustion unit won't leave it burning at present-day emission standards for carbon.

Lawmakers and Newton said Tuesday that the DEC has prepared a strong defense justifying the restart project.

"The table's set," said Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Fairbanks and a former GVEA president.

After the plan is resubmitted, the EPA will have 45 days to review new permits for the plant. Any federal decision could be appealed by interest groups and the public.



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