Senator Ridgell fires back at GPA, CCU on KEPCO power plant issue

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Senator Clynt Ridgell has responded to statements made by the Guam Power Authority and the Consolidated Commission on Utilities criticizing his stance on the KEPCO Ukudu power plant.

“GPA’s General Manager John Benavente and CCU member Simon Sanchez want to distract the community from the facts surrounding the Ukudu power plant by bringing up other issues and making personal attacks,” Ridgell said.

The senator presents what he says are the facts of the issue:

Fact 1 – KEPCO was unable to get a Major Source Permit from the USEPA in time for construction of the Ukudu Power Plant by the Consent Decree deadlines. According to the USEPA website, a major source is a ‘stationary source or group of sources that emit or have the potential to emit 10 tons per year or more of a hazardous air pollutant or 25 tons per year or more of a combination of hazardous air pollutants.’ These permitting issues have led to delays which will ultimately extend the term of the contract beyond the 2045 date for 100 percent renewable energy that is required by Guam law. This is why I asked the Attorney General whether or not this contract is now in conflict with Guam law.

Fact 2 – It was GPA, the CCU and the PUC that decided that the power plant should be built at Ukudu, no one else. In fact, they ignored concerns that were raised about the effect on the air quality at this location by nearby landowners, including GRMC. The Major Source Permit would’ve required lengthy air monitoring.

Fact 3 – It’s GPA, the CCU and the PUC that decided that the answer to the USEPA’s significant concerns with a Major Source Air Permit path for Ukudu was to significantly alter the scope and terms of the contract they awarded to KEPCO by moving part of the power plant down to Cabras. It was not the USEPA’s decision. This change in the contract will cost an additional $4 Million, annually. In fact, GPA and the CCU had to get USEPA’s concurrence to request a change to their consent decree to move forward with the siting of the 41MW plant at Cabras. This decision to significantly alter the contract after its award is questionable, which is why I wrote to the Public Auditor.

Fact 4 – GPA previously claimed that they had to build the power plant at Ukudu instead of Cabras because Ukudu is high above sea level and Cabras is too susceptible to tsunamis. Now they are going against their own claims and asking to build a 41MW power plant at Cabras. In addition to this, they are asking the legislature to waive a law that prevents the construction of fossil fuel burning power plants within 1,500 feet of a school. This power plant they are trying to build will be within 1,200 feet from Jose Rios Middle School.

Fact 5 – The USEPA doesn’t necessarily care how Guam complies with the Clean Air Act as long as Guam complies. GPA, the CCU, and the PUC have previously made claims that the Ukudu Power Plant was required by the USEPA’s consent decree. In fact, it is GPA, The CCU and the PUC who have offered the construction of the Ukudu Power Plant as their solution to compliance with the Clean Air Act. The USEPA merely approved it as long as the new power plant can come into compliance with the Clean Air Act by the original dates in the consent decree. Those dates have since been changed to accommodate the delays in the project timelines.

“These are just some of the facts. There are many other facts related to this complicated situation we are in. It is GPA management, the CCU, and the PUC’s own decisions that have led us to where we are, today. They decided to build the power plant at Ukudu. They decided to award the contract to KEPCO. They decided to put all of their eggs into one basket and now that basket is breaking,” Ridgell said.

He added: “The problem is it will be the people of Guam who will ultimately be stuck holding the bag on a multibillion-dollar contract that is wrought with permitting problems.”

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