Golden Valley rallies support for shut Healy coal plant

The Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) is trying to drum up support for the long-shut Healy Clean Coal Plant (HCCP), including through a rally that was scheduled for May 30 outside the headquarters of the Northern Alaska Environmental Center in Fairbanks.

“Interior Alaska needs cheaper power now!” said a May 29 GVEA statement about the rally. “HCCP is the fastest way to lower electric bills. But GVEA cannot restart the plant because four environmental groups have objected to the HCCP air permit, putting the project in limbo. We’re sending a message to these groups: drop your opposition so this plant can get back to work.”

GVEA later added: “Opposition to the plant is small but organized. Meanwhile, support for the plant is big but disorganized. This rally will help organize the silent majority that wants cheaper power. The rally will be led by Bernie Karl, president of K&K Recycling and Chena Hot Springs Resort. Bernie is a strong advocate of both renewable and conventional power in the Interior.”

The HCCP is a coal-fired plant that was built in the 1990s with U.S. Department of Energy funding help, but it never worked as expected and was quickly shut, sparking years of financial wrangling between involved parties.

Project participants were the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) as owner; GVEA as operator and power off-taker; Usibelli Coal Mine Inc. (which furnished coal to GVEA); TRW Space and Technology Division (the combustor supplier), Babcock and Wilcox (the flue gas desulfurization technology supplier); and the DOE (which provided supplemental funding for the new technologies).

The primary fuel fired for the 64-MW (gross) HCCP was a blend of run-of-mine (ROM) and waste coals, said a DOE project fact sheet from 2000. The project was to demonstrate the ability of slagging combustors and downstream flue gas desulfurization equipment to utilize a lower grade coal than could otherwise be used in an environmentally acceptable manner.

GVEA received notification on March 13 that HCCP’s air permit was challenged at the Environmental Protection Agency, said the association website. The challengers are the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Denali Citizens Council, National Parks Conservation Association and the Sierra Club. The challengers contend HCCP was permanently shut down in 2000 and that restarting the plant now should be considered the same as if it were a newly constructed plant.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation thoroughly evaluated the challenger’s claims already, during a reissuance of Healy’s air permit and concluded no further regulatory review was warranted, the website added.

GVEA operates and maintains 3,131 miles of transmission and distribution lines and 35 substations in Interior Alaska. Its system is interconnected with Fort Wainwright, Eielson Air Force Base, Fort Greely, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and all electric utilities in the Alaska Railbelt, which extends from Homer to Fairbanks.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.