San Agustin bills ask for exemption to Clean Air Act

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GPA's Cabras power plant. (PNC file photo)

The public hearing for two bills that would allow the Guam Power Authority an exemption to the Clean Air Act is forthcoming. In essence, the bills would allow GPA to build a 41 megawatt diesel unit generator well within 1200 feet from Jose Rios Middle School.

The problem is not property rights: the land in Cabras was given to GPA by the US Navy in 1976 for the operation of fuel oil storage and to serve as a base of operations for a steam powerplant. But in 1998, the 24th Guam Legislature passed the Clean Air Act, placing restrictions on the growth of the plant.

Democrat Senator Joe San Agustin, the bills’ sponsor, says the technology has changed, but the law hasn’t. Newer technology has caused emissions per gallon to drop significantly.

He also says the new powerplant would be for emergency purposes and will burn only ultraclean low sulfur diesel (ULSD). The cheaper fuel that is currently being used has a sulfur content of 0.5%; ULSD has a sulfur content of 0.0015%.

“Let’s be reasonable now,” says Senator San Agustin. “When something breaks up North, or on the way down South, what is your power source?”

Major and minor source permits

Originally, GPA planned to construct one large plant in Ukudu but failed to secure a major source permit (also known as a Title V permit) from the Environmental Protection Agency. As a result, to reach their 2025 projections, GPA has to split the energy requirement between a plant in Ukudu and another in Cabras. But they must secure 2 minor source permits, one for each location, first.

Bills 212-36 and 213-36 have received a lot of criticism ahead of the public hearing, which is set for Thursday at 9 am. “But when you look at it this way,” says Senator San Agustin, “the two power plants there [in Cabras] have been decommissioned, which generally means they’re [GPA] going to replace it. And it’s going to be a lot better, more efficient, and cleaner than the current system they have.”

Senator San Agustin urges the public to go on Google, read about the plant, get educated and not to focus solely on the 1200 feet. He argues that technology now is better than it used to be.

Opposition

The bills face opposition for two major reasons: first, as mentioned, is because of the Clean Air Act. The second reason is that the contract has been awarded to KEPCO, a Korean electric company that had destroyed Marbo Cave last year while working to establish a solar farm in a nearby area.

Senator Clynt Ridgell, also a member of the Democrat party, has openly expressed his disapproval of the bills. “You’re still burning fossil fuels,” he says. “Why are we still building powerplants when we’re supposed to be switching to renewable energy?”

Furthermore, according to Senator Ridgell, many parents whose children attend Jose Rios have not been informed of this bill. He also doesn’t believe Guam needs another powerplant down South when Guam already has pre-existing ones.

Senator Ridgell continues, “Renewable energy is something that’s being pushed across the globe, particularly in the US mainland . . . and instead, we continue to invest in old technology.”

For GPA’s response, click here.