Press Release Details

WAPA Satisfies Federal Court Quarterly Review With Continued Compliance Of Consent Decree Requirements

May 22, 2019
In what ended as a great success for the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority towards compliance efforts with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), WAPA Executive Director Lawrence J. Kupfer and his team were lauded as they successfully satisfied the quarterly requirements, necessary to secure a favorable review from U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Gomez.

On Monday, May 20, 2019, Kupfer, accompanied by Special Advisor Gregory Rhymer, Deputy General Counsel Mark Kragel and external counsel Robert Smith appeared in federal court, along with representatives of the Department of Justice and the EPA, to provide status updates relative to WAPA meeting compliance requirements outlined in its Air Pollution Control Permits Consent Decrees imposed on the Authority’s power plants.

During the hearing Rhymer testified that overall, the Authority remains in substantial compliance with all of its air permits requirements. He further testified that the atomizing air compressor needed to operate Unit 14 at the Randolph Harley Plant is on-island, and once installed, the unit will be available for dispatch within 60 days. Rhymer pointed out that not having the generating unit available, does not diminish the reliability of the plant, as it will serve as a standby unit. Rhymer noted that the Environmental Department continues to monitor the facilities’ emissions, and will perform mandated stack testing in July 2019 to confirm compliance with limitations set forth in the facility air permits.

Rhymer also testified about the Authority’s federally-funded hazard mitigation undergrounding projects and assiduous efforts to harden the infrastructure with the installation of composite poles territory-wide.

WAPA’s efforts in complying with conditions of the consent decrees were concurred by Ralph Lonergan, Environmental Engineer for the USEPA Region II, as he testified that there were no major concerns within the last quarter. As an Environmental Engineer, Lonergan reviews WAPA’s quarterly reports and monitors strictly for compliance. “Quarter to quarter, we have realized that the exceedances are going down and we have no major concerns with WAPA, we are very pleased,” Lonergan said.

“The progress made towards remaining in compliance with the Clean Air Act is very remarkable. As we approach the eve of hurricane season, do not lose sight of the main goal, which is to remain compliant. Consent decrees are priority issues and WAPA has taken a refreshing approach towards compliance and illuminating the future,” Judge Gomez eloquently articulated at the conclusion of the hearing.

Following Monday’s hearing, the court will no longer require the Authority to report quarterly, but rather annually. The next scheduled status update conference will be in November, and annually thereafter. However, either party can request a hearing during that period, if deemed necessary.

“This is great news for the Authority and our hard work and dedication has been evidenced today. The team has remained committed to ensuring compliance all in an effort to safeguard the future of the Authority, and for that I say, thank you!” Kupfer exclaimed.

In August 2014 and September 2016 the Department of Justice (USDOJ) filed federal enforcement actions on behalf of the EPA under the Federal Clean Air Act for alleged violations at St. Croix and St. Thomas-St. John facilities, respectively on and after October 1, 2005. The District Court approved Settlement Agreements via Consent Decrees reached amongst the parties (USEPA, USDOJ & WAPA) for both generating facilities.

Consent decrees provide for injunctive relief, stipulated penalties for future violations occurring during the life of consent decrees, and phased payment (completed) of $700,000 and $1.3 million in civil penalties for the St. Croix and St. Thomas and St. John facilities, respectively. The consent decrees will remain in place until the terms of compliance are both satisfactorily completed and maintained of applicable air permits for three (3) year periods for each.

Also in attendance at Monday’s hearing were John Woodson, Harley Plant Superintendent, Maxwell George, Environmental Affairs Manager, Rhonda Liburd, Environmental Affairs Specialist, and Danielle Cranston, Public Information Manager.