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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 14, 2006

Hamakua power plant cited

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cited an independent power company that operates an electric plant in rural Hamakua on the Big Island, alleging the plant violated the terms of its permits under the federal Clean Air Act.

In an April 10 notice to Hamakua Energy Partners, the EPA notified the company it was in violation of a covered source permit issued in 1998, for excessive nitrogen oxide gas emissions, and for failing to monitor carbon monoxide emissions.

The report also faults the partnership for failing to file reports with the EPA that are required under federal regulations.

Larry Kafchinski, general manager of the plant, yesterday said Hamakua Energy Partners had not yet been notified of the violations.

Kafchinski said that plant operations are governed by some of the strictest federal clean air requirements of any power facility on the Big Island because it was built only seven years ago, subjecting it to stringent new standards.

"The employees and management at Hamakua Energy Partners operate the plant under a policy of strict compliance with all environmental regulations," the company said in a written statement. "We will work together with EPA and (the Department of Health) in hopes of resolving the issues."

The plant at the site of the old Hamakua Sugar mill in Haina has two combustion turbine generators that produce a total of 60 megawatts of power for sale to Hawai'i Electric Light Co. for distribution to Helco customers

The $113 million facility was built in 1999, and burns a light petroleum product called naphtha. The plant is owned by a partners Black River Energy LLC of Charlotte, N.C., and the New York-based Energy Investors Funds Group, Kafchinski said.

The facility began selling power to Helco in late 2000, and Kafchinski said this is the first time it has been cited by the EPA.

The covered source permit for the mill plant requires that stack emissions be continuously monitored for carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

However, quarterly reports the Hamakua plant submitted to the state Department of Health show carbon monoxide monitors for one or the other of the turbines were not functioning for a total of about 830 hours from 2001 to 2005, according to the EPA.

The reports also show the plant turbines exceeded the limits for nitrogen oxide emissions set for the plant for a total of about 325 hours during 2001, 2002 and 2003, the EPA alleges.

The citation also alleges the plant has not submitted required quarterly reports to the EPA since the plant opened.

"Clean Air Act rules are very clear on the need for both appropriate emission limits and continuous monitoring of power plant emissions," said Deborah Jordan, director for the EPA Pacific Southwest Region's Air Division in a statement announcing the citation. "We will continue to ensure that facilities comply with these regulations and do their part to protect air quality."

The plant owners could face penalties of $27,500 per day for each violation before March 2004, and $32,500 per day for each subsequent violation, according to the EPA.

Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com.