EPA orders Hawaii to modify or reissue Hu Honua Bioenergy's air pollution permit for its 21.5-MW bioenergy plant under construction at former Hilo Coast Processing site in Pepeekeo, Hawaii; agency says state failed to consider some pertinent issues

LOS ANGELES , February 12, 2014 () – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) orders Hawaii’s Clean Air Branch to modify or reissue the air pollution permit for Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC’s 21.5-megawatt (MW) bioenergy plant, which is currently under construction at the former Hilo Coast Processing Co. site in Pepeekeo, Hawaii, the Hawaii Tribune Herald reported on Feb. 11.

The EPA found that Hawaii had failed to take a number of pertinent issues into account, including additional pollutants that would be released by certain types of equipment or during startup, shutdown and malfunctions.

The Clean Air Branch now has 90 days following the date of signature—Feb. 7—to revise and reissue the permit, said Kerry Drake, the associate director of the Air Division in the EPA’s San Francisco office. The current permit remains valid while a new permit is being drafted, he added.

If the Clean Air Branch fails to issue a new permit during this period, the EPA will issue a federal permit in lieu of one from the state, said Clean Air Branch Acting Director Nolan Hirai.

Community group Preserve Pepeekeo Health and Environment had filed a petition under the Clean Air Act seeking to have EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy formally object to the state’s decision to issue a permit.

McCarthy dismissed 10 of the 13 objections in the petition and granted the remaining three.

Hu Honua is classified in its current permit as a minor source of air pollution. To qualify as a minor source, plants must have annual emissions of fewer than 25 tons of all hazardous pollutants, fewer than 10 tons of any single ‘hazardous air pollutant’ such as acrolein, and fewer than 250 tons of ‘criteria pollutants’ such as carbon monoxide.

Hu Honua’s permit application, which does not include startup, shutdown and generator emissions, estimates that its annual emissions will amount to 246.4 tons of criteria pollutants and 23.8 tons of hazardous pollutants, said attorney Mark Chytilo, who represents Preserve Pepeekeo Health and Environment. Including the omitted emissions sources could exceed the levels necessary for the plant to be classed as a minor source of pollution, he added.

The primary source of this article is Hawaii Tribune Herald, Hilo, Hawaii, on Feb. 11, 2014.

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