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HomeNewsArchivesWAPA PONDERS WASTE-TO-ENERGY PLANT PLAN

WAPA PONDERS WASTE-TO-ENERGY PLANT PLAN

Aug. 17, 2001 — Before the Turnbull administration and Caribe Waste Technologies can move ahead with plans to build a waste-to-energy processing plant on St. Croix, the Water and Power Authority must review the multimillion-dollar implications of the project.
At a meeting Thursday on St. Croix, the WAPA board was briefed on the plan that is being billed as the panacea to the territory’s solid waste woes: a gasification plant. The proposed facility would be similar to three in operation in Italy, Japan and Germany and would, after processing garbage through a chemical conversion process, produce electricity and water, Mark Augenblick, CWT chairman and CEO, said.
Because WAPA would be purchasing the water and power generated from the plant -– at an estimated $10 million a year for 30 years -– the utility must approve a contract with CWT.
"This project cannot proceed without WAPA," Augenblick said. "We have been told by the governor’s office that the governor wants to proceed … they are waiting for us to agree on a contract on the purchase of water and power."
Along with initiating new solid waste user fees, the government would use the revenue from selling the water and electricity produced by the plant to help pay for it. The plant cost has been estimated at least $175 million.
CWT is estimating that it will be able to generate 1.5 million gallons of water and 11 megawatts of electricity a year from the facility, which will have the capacity to recycle 220,000 ton of waste per year.
"This is a major project," Joseph Thomas Jr., WAPA executive director, said. "I see this as maybe the most important decision we make over a long period of time."
He said that while the utility shares concern for environmental issues facing the territory, the WAPA board must consider how the $300 million or so that it would pay out over 30 years for water and power would affect its operations. He noted that the water and power that could be produced by the plant isn’t even needed by the utility on St. Croix.
"While WAPA doesn’t need this extra capacity now or in the foreseeable future, it attempts to work with CWT in whatever way it can to help solve the Virgin Islands' waste problem," Thomas said. "The authority has a fiduciary responsibility, however, to its customers and bondholders. We need to think through this opportunity very carefully."
CWT submitted a draft contract to WAPA in May. The utility disputed the "avoided cost" figures in the document. Essentially, avoided cost is the amount WAPA would save by not generating electricity and water itself.
Because of the disagreement, CWT and WAPA agreed to have an independent consultant determine a mutually agreeable avoided cost. Thomas said WAPA will now hire its own consultant to review the contract and the proposed facility’s technology and will report back to the board in the next 10 working days.
The trash processing plan
Under CWT’s proposal, garbage from St. John and St. Thomas would be barged to a single waste-to-energy plant on St. Croix, which could be built adjacent to the Gordon Finch Molasses Pier or on the St. Croix Alumina property, Augenblick said. The plant, he said, will allow the government to close the Bovoni and Anguilla landfills. The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered the territory to close the Anguilla facility by the end of 2002 because birds that feed off of it pose a danger to aircraft at the nearby Henry E. Rohlsen Airport.
But permitting and construction of the plant will take at least 21 months, Augenblick said, adding that he felt "awkward" about telling the WAPA board what the Turnbull administration plans to do about the FAA deadline and the timeline for the project.
He did say the project would generate $10 million a year for the St. Croix economy and would employ 70 people "in good-paying jobs over 30 years." Additionally, 250 people would be employed during construction of the plant, he said.
Augenblick tried to assuage fears that St. Croix would become a magnet for other islands’ trash in order to feed the waste-to-energy plant. He said the plant would run like a coal gasification plant, but instead of coal it would use waste to produce energy and water. He said the technology is a "100 percent recycling process."
"It is not a burning process. It’s a chemical conversion process," Augenblick said. "St. Croix isn’t going to be a repository or dumping ground for anybody’s waste."

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