By Nancy Cook Lauer
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposes to cap emissions at three Hawaii Island electrical plants to improve visibility at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, even as Kilauea continues to be the largest contributor to haze on the island.
The EPA has scheduled a June 1 open house and public hearing at the Waiakea High School cafeteria in Hilo. The open house begins at 4:30 p.m., with public testimony to be taken from 5:30-7:30 p.m. An open house and public hearing will be held the day before on Maui. Written comments will be accepted through July 2.
Hawaii Electric Light Co.’s 575 pounds per day of emissions is a scant 0.04 percent of the 661 tons of sulfur dioxide per day Kilauea Volcano was emitting last week. But the EPA’s Hawaii Regional Haze Implementation Plan is supposed to be a long-term plan to clear the air by 2064, when Kilauea may no longer be erupting, said Kerry Drake, associate director of the Air Division at EPA’s Region 9 office in San Francisco. Measurable progress must be shown by 2018, under the plan.
“We did take into account the volcano,” Drake said Monday. “We do understand there’s a volcano there.”
The proposed plan would impose a cap on pollution from certain oil-fired electric generating units on the Big Island. It is likely that HELCO could meet this cap through improvements in energy conservation and increased reliance on renewable energy already planned as part of Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative, according to an EPA news release. The EPA is not planning to impose any other additional pollution controls as part of this stage of the Regional Haze Program, it said.
“We took into account the volcano, but we had to do an analysis, if it were just the power plants themselves, what we needed to do to return to natural visibility,” Drake said.
HELCO President Jay Ignacio said utility officials are still reviewing the EPA plan, and he can’t comment on specific requirements. He will be attending the public hearing in Hilo, Ignacio said, and he also will be submitting written comments.
“It’s important for us to comply with EPA regulations and take care of our environment,” Ignacio said. “We certainly will be working with them in formulating the regulations.”
The goal is to improve visibility at both Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park on Maui by reducing emissions at the Kanoelehua Hill Generating Station, Shipman Power Plant and the Puna Power Plant. Drake said geothermal plants aren’t included in the reductions because they operate on a closed system and don’t emit sulfuric compounds, once the well is drilled.
Drake said the caps were set so that HELCO could make the reductions by reducing the amount of sulfur in its fuel and moving along the path it has already set toward clean energy, Drake said, adding that Hawaii is one of the nation’s leaders in clean energy conversion.
Ignacio said he hasn’t studied the requirements enough to confirm Drake’s view, but he said the utility is certainly moving in that direction. Wind power, geothermal, solar and biofuels are among the technologies helping to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
“We’re already doing a lot of things to add renewables to our system,” Ignacio said. “All of that helps to reduce emissions.”
The 33.7-megawatt “Hill” generating station on Railroad Avenue was the sixth-largest polluter in the state in 2010, with a reported 140,028 pounds of toxic chemicals, mostly sulfuric acid. Although the plant was seventh on the 2009 list, reported emissions are down about a third from the 210,120 pounds of pollutants reportedly released by the Hilo facility in 2009, according to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory.
Information about the EPA proposed implementation plan is at http://www.epa.gov/region9/air/actions/hawaii.html/.
Email Nancy Cook-Lauer at firstname.lastname@example.org.