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Golden Valley Electric Association and Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority Settlement

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a Clean Air Act (CAA) settlement with Golden Valley Electric Association and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (GVEA and AIDEA) that will resolve the longstanding concerns regarding the Healy power plant in Healy, Alaska. GVEA and AIDEA have agreed to invest approximately $40 million in pollution control technology that will protect public health and resolve potential violations of the CAA. The settlement will also require that GVEA, on behalf of defendants, spend $250,000 on environmental mitigation projects and pay a civil penalty of $115,000.

Overview of Company

Golden Valley Electric Association (“GVEA”) generates electricity for approximately 100,000 residents in the Fairbanks area of Alaska. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority is a public corporation of the State of Alaska that serves as the State’s development financing authority.

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GVEA and AIDEA intend to bring back online a 50 MW power plant, Healy Unit 2, that has not operated since 1999. The government alleges that such a project would require a new PSD permit, which GVEA and AIDEA did not obtain.

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Injunctive Relief

The settlement requires GVEA and AIDEA to:

  • Install Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) on Unit 2;
  • Install Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction (SNCR) on Unit 1 in the near term, and either install SCR or retire Unit 1 by 2024;
  • Comply with annual tonnage limitations for Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) at the Healy Power Plant;
  • Install and operate continuous emissions monitoring systems to measure stack emissions of NOx, SO2 and Particulate Matter (PM).

GVEA and AIDEA will spend at approximately $40 million to implement the injunctive relief required by the consent decree.

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Environmental Mitigation Projects

The proposed consent decree requires GVEA, on behalf of the defendants and to spend $250,000 on environmental mitigation projects. They will comply with that requirement by contributing that amount to programs that replace old, polluting wood and coal stoves with newer, cleaner burning certified models in the Fairbanks and Healy areas.

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Pollutant Impacts

EPA estimates that the emissions controls to be installed at the Healy Power Plant, Units 1 and 2, will result in emissions reductions of 892 tons of NOx annually, or a reduction of about 73%.

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Health Effects and Environmental Benefits

The pollutants reduced under this settlement have numerous adverse environmental and health effects and contribute to visibility impairment in Denali National Park. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides can be converted to fine particulate matter once in the air. Fine particulates can be breathed in and lodged deep in the lungs, leading to a variety of health problems and even premature death. Other health and environmental impacts from the pollutants addressed in this settlement include the following:

  • Nitrogen Oxides – Nitrogen oxides (NOx) can cause or contribute to a variety of health problems and adverse environmental impacts, such as ground-level ozone, acid rain, global warming, water quality deterioration, and visual impairment.  Affected populations include children and people with lung diseases such as asthma. Exposure to these conditions can cause damage to lung tissue for people who work or exercise outside.
  • Particulate Matter – Particulate matter, especially fine particles, contains microscopic solids or liquid droplets that are so small that they can get deep into the lungs and cause serious health problems. Particulate matter is linked to a variety of problems, including increased respiratory symptoms such as irritation of the airways, coughing, or difficulty breathing, decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
  • Sulfur Dioxide -  High concentrations of (SO2) affect breathing and may aggravate existing respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Sensitive populations include asthmatics, individuals with bronchitis or emphysema, children and the elderly. Sulfur dioxide is also a primary contributor to acid deposition, or acid rain.

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Civil Penalty

GVEA, on behalf of the defendants, will pay $115,000 in civil penalties.

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Comment Period

The proposed settlement, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. Information on submitting comment is available at the Department of Justice.

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Sabrina Argentieri
U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
77 West Jackson Boulevard
Mail Code – C-141
Chicago, IL 60604-3507

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