August 15

EPA Clears Air Permit Application

Hu Honua Bioenergy’s air permit application has cleared the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which issued a “no objection” determination to the proposed permit.

Hu Honua is working with the Hawaii Department of Health, Clean Air Branch  (DOH) to finalize language of the air permit to address comments and recommendations from EPA to DOH regarding procedures and processes associated with emissions monitoring. Hu Honua will be the first of its kind of facility to be located in Hawaii and the standards governing this type of operation have been recently updated.

Hu Honua has affirmed it will meet all of these updated standards, including the latest and most stringent applicable emissions regulations that have recently been implemented—maximum achievable control technology (MACT.)  Furthermore, Hu Honua’s engineering and construction contractor has provided a guaranty that the facility will meet the limits contained in its air permit application.

John Sylvia, CEO of Hu Honua, was clear that the facility is being designed to meet all the requirements. “The last thing we want is a facility which doesn’t meet its permit requirements,” he said.

Air permit timeline

Hu Honua first applied for an air permit two years ago.  Following extensive air emissions modeling and engineering analysis conducted by outside experts retained by Hu Honua, during which period numerous DoH questions and information requests were addressed, a year later the DOH issued a draft permit and opened a public comment period that exceeded a month. DOH held a public hearing in September 2010 and extended the public comment period to nearly two months.

Based on the feedback from the public hearing and the public comments, Hu Honua revised and resubmitted its application in December 2010.  DOH opened a second public comment period, which lasted about a month.

After further public comments, DOH and Hu Honua implemented additional modifications to the draft air permit in response to public comments.  DOH sent the proposed air permit to EPA for review in May 2011.

EPA responded at the end of June, saying it had no objection to the proposed air permit being issued.

The need

As the state faces rising oil costs and a mandate to meet the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative goals for renewables, Hu Honua’s biomass facility will be a significant contributor—24 megawatts of electricity for the Big Island grid, about 10 percent of the island’s demand. This will allow the utility to reduce the amount of power it produces from fossil fuels.

Hu Honua will also be a stable power source, not intermittent like wind.  That means the utility can rely on its steady output and plan accordingly.

The facility will also bring jobs to an area that sorely needs them.  During the rebuilding phase of the facility, approximately 100 construction jobs are anticipated. Once it is operating, approximately 30 fulltime, good paying jobs will be created at the facility. Another 120 indirect jobs are estimated in the timber and related industries as well.