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EPA to hold public meeting, hearing on permit for Arecibo waste-to-energy plant

The proposed waste-to-energy plant's location in Arecibo.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday it will hold a public hearing June 25 to give the public a chance to express their concerns about the proposed waste-to-energy plant project slated for Arecibo, where Energy Answers International Inc. is looking to build a 77-megawatt incinerator.

As News is my Business reported, last week, the EPA approved a key permit the Albany, NY-based company needed to move the $500 million project forward. The EPA determined the project meets stringent air standards in place to protect human health and the environment.

Leading up to the public meeting, the EPA also said it is accepting public comments on its proposed action to grant final approval of the air permit needed to break ground on the project that would go up at the former site of the Global Fibers Paper Mill in Barrio Cambalache.

“The EPA encourages public participation and input in this decision.  The EPA will host a public availability session to allow an informal opportunity for the public to learn about the proposed permit,” said the agency, referring to the session slated for May 23, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the University of Puerto Rico, Arecibo campus theater.

As the EPA seeks public comments, Energy Answers officials will meet with members of the media today to discuss the advancements it has made in the permits process and answer questions related to the preliminary go-ahead from the agency.

The EPA is proposing an air permit for the facility after evaluating the potential impact of the facility on air quality by comparing it to EPA air quality standards, which are established to protect public health. The EPA’s evaluation also included assessing the impact of the facility on nearby low-income communities. Based on information available to date, EPA has concluded that operation of the Arecibo facility will not cause any health standards to be exceeded or any communities to be disproportionately impacted.

However, prior to issuing its final decision, the agency will hold a formal public hearing next month, starting at 6 p.m. “until the last speaker has been heard,” at the same venue. The public comment period will end on that day.

“Comments given at this hearing will be part of the official public record and will be considered as comments on the air permit,” the agency noted. “EPA encourages all interested parties to participate of the public availability session and to submit comments on the proposed action either in writing or by participating of the public hearing.”

Energy Answers’ proposed project, known as the Arecibo Puerto Rico Renewable Energy Project, will be capable of receiving up to 2,100 tons of waste per day to convert it into biofuel. At present, there are about 30 landfills on the island, most with limited lifespans left.

To obtain the EPA permit, Energy Answers was required, among other things, to demonstrate that the pollution controls on the plant are “as strict or stricter than any other plant being built in the United States today.”

The EPA has included these pollution controls, which are considered the best pollution control technology available, as requirements in the proposed permit, that also requires Energy Answers to test the pollution it emits to the atmosphere, once operational.

Public comments may be mailed or emailed to: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, Permitting Section, Air Programs Branch, 290 Broadway, New York, New York 10007, Attention: Steven C. Riva, or to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, Caribbean Environmental Protection Division, City View Plaza III-Suite 7000, #48 Rd. 165 km 1.2, Guaynabo, PR 00968-8069, Attention: José Font.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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