acid rainUnder a legal agreement announced on April 23, the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) will soon come into compliance with the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s air pollution control requirements. When announcing the agreement, the U.S. Justice Department and the EPA stated that it would go a long way toward reducing air pollution throughout the territory and beyond.

The consent decree specifically targets the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Estate Richmond generating facility, a fossil fuel power plant located on St. Croix. The EPA and the Department of Justice had previously discovered that the facility was exceeding its limits on the emission of nitrogen oxides and other particulate matter, which may cause serious health issues like asthma, heart disease and lung disease. The agreement is projected to reduce particulate matter emissions by about three tons a year and cut nitrogen oxide emissions by about 115 tons a year.

An EPA press release stated that the organization has been working with WAPA over the last several years to address the violations, which has resulted in the repair or replacement of some pollution controls and monitoring equipment. So far, WAPA has spent approximately $4 million on its compliance efforts, and will likely need to spend at least $2 million more per year to maintain compliance. In addition, the facility will be required to pay a $700,000 fine for its previous violations — $32,500 for each violation between March 15, 2004 and January 11, 2009, and $37,500 for each subsequent violation.

The EPA requires large facilities such as WAPA to install the latest in control technology for air pollution emissions. Upon inspecting WAPA’s facilities, the agency found that it had not adequately operated or maintained its pollution control system between October 2005 and December 2012. According to WAPA Director Hugo Hodge, some of the compliance problems occurred because WAPA had not properly budgeted for technicians, instead relying on contractors traveling from the mainland.

In the future, the facility will keep trained technicians on staff. In addition, WAPA will soon convert to natural gas, which will also help to reduce its overall emissions. Under the terms of the agreement, WAPA will be required to properly maintain and operate its pollution control system, develop and retain a spare parts inventory for its equipment, test and operate a robust emission monitoring system, perform stack tests and quality assurance checks and hire an independent party to train and audit staff for at least three years.

The EPA has been especially diligent about cracking down on polluters over the past several years, and WAPA is just one example of an organization the agency has targeted for compliance violations. As concerns about climate change and pollution grow worldwide, it’s likely that the EPA will continue to ramp up these efforts in the years to come.

BoltNagi is a respected and established government relations law firm serving clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.