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WAPA Has St. Croix CZM Hearing

(Wednesday, February 12, 2014)

The Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, along with propane project sponsor Vitol and stakeholders, participated in a Coastal Zone Management (CZM) hearing on St. Croix regarding WAPA’s planned switch to propane as the primary source of fuel for power generation.  At the hearing, which took place at the Port Authority offices at the St. Croix airport, WAPA presented the details of the project to the Commissioners and respectfully requested swift consideration of the permit application.  The St. Croix CZM hearing marks a critical milestone in the permitting of the project, which is expected to reduce WAPA’s fuel costs by approximately 30%, which will be directly passed on to customers.  Environmental benefits include a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

During his opening statement, WAPA Executive Director Hugo V. Hodge, Jr. testified, “this project will lower our electricity bills, make us more competitive, create economic growth, and help us along the path to economic recovery.” He continued, “It is also vitally important that we complete this project on time so that we all realize the many benefits at the earliest possible time.  For that reason, I’m respectfully requesting that the committee render its decision as soon as practical after the mandated seven days following this hearing.”

The CZM permitting process is a necessary step in any development activity that may impact a U.S. coast line.  The Coastal Zone Management Act, passed by Congress in 1972 and administered by the Nation Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is designed to balance economic development with environmental conservation.  Public hearings on permit applications are a regular part of the CZM process.

The hearing was well attended by stakeholders on St. Croix, all of whom were given the opportunity to testify in front of the CZM Commission, consistent with WAPA’s ongoing commitment to stakeholder education and outreach.  WAPA has held several community outreach events on St. Croix including a Propane BBQ for local residents and regular appearances on the radio by Executive Director Hugo Hodge and other WAPA spokespeople.

The project has already achieved several critical milestones, including allocating over 50 percent of the project budget, and is expected to be operational in the 4th quarter of 2014.  In December WAPA posted photos on the powering VI Facebook page of the propane tanks under construction in Europe.  Customers should experience lower bills beginning in the fourth quarter of 2014.

The Authority and stakeholders will have another hearing before the Coastal Zone Management Committee on St. Thomas this Thursday, February 13, at 6 p.m.  The hearing will be held in the Department of Natural Resources conference room on the second floor of the Cyril E. King Airport.

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