EPA rejects appeal over biomass-fired Hu Honua power project in Hawaii

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will say in a Nov. 23 Federal Register notice that Administrator Gina McCarthy on Sept. 14 rejected an appeal of an air permit that had been issued for a biomass-fired power project in Hawaii.

MCarthy denied a petition to object to a Clean Air Act (CAA) title V operating permit proposed by the Clean Air Branch, Environmental Management Division, Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH) for the Hu Honua Bioenergy Facility LLC project in Pepeekeo, Hawaii. The petition was submitted by the Law Office of Marc Chytilo, on behalf of Preserve Pepeekeo Health & Environment, in September 2014.

A petitioner may seek judicial review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the appropriate circuit of those portions of the petition which EPA denied. Any petition for review needs to be filed within 60 days from the date this Nov. 23 notice appears in the Federal Register.

In September 2014, the EPA received this petition on a proposed permit for the Hu Honua Bioenergy Facility, which is an electricity generating facility that consists primarily of a single biomass-fired steam boiler. On Feb. 18, 2016, HDOH issued the final permit. The petitioner requested that EPA object to the permit based on ten claims, including: HDOH has failed to satisfy the public participation requirements of the Act, title V regulations, and state law; permit limitations for criteria pollutants are not practically enforceable; emissions limitations for hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) are not federally or practically enforceable; emissions factors for HAPs are unacceptable; and the permit does not explicitly preclude affirmative defenses.

The subject facility is to be located in Pepeekeo, Hawaii, on a 2,557-acre site on the Big Island. The Hu Honua Bioenergy facility was planned to generate electricity for Hawaii Electric Light Co. Inc. (HELCO) and would consist of a 407 MMBtu/hr boiler, a steam turbine generator, and an 836 kW emergency generator. It would have a net power output of 21.5 MW to the grid. Hu Honua would burn wood in the boiler and burn 100% biodiesel during startups and as a supplemental fuel during low-load operation of the boiler. An 836 kW electrical generator will be operated only during emergencies and will only combust 100% biodiesel.

The project has its own website.

A March 3 article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald said HELCO has terminated the power purchase deal. “We gave Hu Honua until March 1, 2016, to resolve issues. Unfortunately, that has not occurred. We regretfully terminated the contract,” said HELCO President Jay Ignacio in a prepared statement quoted by the newspaper. Another report says that Hu Honua has tried since then to revive the project.

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.