PEPEEKEO, Hawaii: The Hawaii State Department of Health issued the following media release on Thursday:
The Hawai‘i State Department of Health’s Clean Air Branch (DOH) has issued an air permit to Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC for a Bioenergy Facility in Pepeekeo, Hawai‘i. The permit allows the company to burn eucalyptus wood chips, other clean wood, and biodiesel to generate approximately 21.5 megawatts of electricity for the island of Hawai‘i.
After an extensive review over a period of two years of the Hu Honua Bioenergy’s application and the comments received on the draft permit, the DOH has determined that the facility complies with all state and federal air pollution regulations. The final air permit requires the installation of various air pollution controls, establishes emission limits, and incorporates testing, monitoring, recordkeeping and reporting requirements.
The issuance of the air permit follows two 30-day public comment periods, a public hearing and a 45-day U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) review period. During the public participation process, the DOH received hundreds of public comments and testimony on the draft air permit. Comments were also received from EPA. These comments resulted in many improvements and changes to the final air permit.
The permit, permit review summary and DOH responses to the comments are available at:
Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC is converting the former Hilo Coast Power Company plant at Pepeekeo into a modern biomass energy facility, company representatives say. After sugar operations ceased, the facility operated for some years as a coal-fired power plant. Hu Honua will use only biomass. The goal is for the plant to be operational by late 2012. It will produce 24 megawatts of power, about 10 percent of the island’s electrical needs and about enough for 14,000 homes. It expects to employ about 100 construction workers for up to a year for plant refurbishment and then about 30 fulltime workers at the facility.
The project has alarmed some members of the surrounding community, who are concerned about a number of possible environmental and quality of life impacts. Many of the opponents were unsuccessful in stopping a Special Use Permit to be issued by the Windward Planning Commission after a contested case. However, the recent release of a document that spells out the concerns expressed by Environmental Protection Agency towards the biomass project has reaffirmed concern.