Op-ed — St. Croix
The League of Women Voters understands that the 29th Legislature might soon reconsider The Alpine Energy Group (AEG)’S request to approve a lease for parcel 1A-7, Estate Bovoni for the purpose of facilitating its plans to build a waste to energy facility. The League is concerned that consideration of such a request will be made in spite of the lack of an over-all integrated solid waste management policy. Since there is no policy, a number of critical questions need to be answered before the Legislature makes a decision. Furthermore, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has voiced concern over AEG’s approach to waste management and has instead urged the USVI to move toward Recycling, Reuse and Reduction as more viable alternatives.
We have written to Senate President Ronald E. Russell in May 2011, with copies to the members of the Legislature, to express our serious concerns regarding AEG’s proposal and its implications for the people of the Virgin Islands. Following is a synopsis of issues raised in the letter:
1. The Legislature must first ensure that all options for solid waste management be thoroughly explored. This is especially important since there is no solid waste policy.
2. Significant concerns raised by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) need to be addressed. The League has noted, for example, that AEG has still not answered EPA’s requests for emissions data. Further, the Alternatives section of the Environmental Assessment Report (EAR) does not include EPA’s favored solutions to the closing of the VI landfills (i.e. reduction, reuse and recycling rather than incineration).
3. A disturbing question with financial implications remains unanswered: what is the financial obligation of the Virgin Islands should the Waste Management Authority (WMA) be unable to supply the minimum amount of wasterequired by AEG for conversion to refuse derived fuel (RDF)? Has the Legislature’s legal counsel reviewed the revised WMA/AEG contract?
4. Section 7.05 of the Alpine Environmental Assessment Report (EAR) for CZX-10-11(L), states “…if the Alpine project were operating today, power would be sold to WAPA at less than 15 cents per KWH.” No evidence is provided for this nor forthe claim that the process will result in a reduction of the cost of power to ratepayers. We urge the Legislature to obtain an independent opinion for answers to this and other financial questions.
5. The Alpine EAR does not reveal how much supplemental fuel will be required to operate the St. Croix Waste to Energy plant; further, the kind of supplemental fuel that will be used is not specified.
6. Finally, we urge the Legislature to request information from the Government of Aruba regarding WasteAway’s process in Aruba. WasteAway is Alpine’s RDF subcontractor for the VI project.
8. The League asks that the Legislature decline to schedule the reconsideration of the Bovoni leaseUNTIL receipt of the information necessary to understand ALL the components, conditions, restrictions and implications (legal, economic and environmental) of the entire AEG project. Failing to consider this project in its entirety mayresult in the Territory’s being held hostage to a flawed project because of contracts signed without full knowledge and information needed to make informed decisions.
8. The following documents are essential for a thorough and fair review:
The Environmental Assessment Report for the St. Croix Application CZX-10-11(L)
The EAR for the Alpine Bovoni Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) Facility
The most recent contract between VIWAPA and AEG Anguilla Power, LLC
The most recent contract between VIWMA and AEG Anguilla Power, LLC
The most recent contract between VIWMA and AEG Bovoni Power, LLC
The decision to build the kind of Waste to Energy project being proposed by AEG holds significant implications for the future health and welfare of the people of our territory. Can we really afford, then, to let this major decision simply ease through the Legislature without AEG being held responsible for responding to these questions and concerns?
Editor’s note: Dr. Gwen-Marie Moolenaar is the president of the League of Women Voters – Virgin Islands.