- Posted April 28, 2013 by
San Diego, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
San Diego County Forfeits 240 MW CoGen Plants
Tony Arand, president of Envirepel Energy, Inc. (EEI), has announced that the bioenergy company has relocated its operations out of State due to continued bureaucratic delays by the San Diego Air Pollution Control District (SDAPCD). Furthermore, Arand has filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate on behalf of EEI against the SDAPCD.
EEI was founded to develop, own and operate clean renewable energy power plants that produce electricity and natural gas products from captured carbon. Having developed a system that meets State standards for conversion technology, Arand indicated that their .5 megawatt (MW) research and development (R&D) gasification/combustion unit, Test Cell 3, has demonstrated combustion emission levels as clean as natural gas using feedstocks such as biomass, municipal waste, and high sulfur coal.
“We have developed and demonstrated ceramic technology that points to the very strong possibility that we can in fact reduce, or remove the use of ammonia in power plants for selective catalytic reduction of NOx and CO,” stated Arand. “That is a point of pride for me, as my father was one of two engineers that patented the idea for using urea and ammonia for emissions reductions in power plants when he ran the labs at KVB Engineering in Orange County back in the 70's and 80's. There are a few dozen patents that he authored that are used routinely and considered commercial today.”
Arand explained that waste to energy technologies such as theirs provides a necessary “solution to dealing with problem waste streams where they are generated” while also creating clean power in a comparatively low impact manner.
With Allied Waste as partner and Public Utilities Commission approved long term purchase agreements with San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), EEI applied for and received a Special Use Permit in 2006 to operate its first commercial 1.5 MW project, Kittyhawk, in the City of Vista. Vista was supportive and receptive to EEI’s modified waste to energy technology and is the lead environmental agency within its jurisdiction. Vista approved the Special Use Permit in 90 days. According to Arand, after 18 months of filing its permit to construct with SDAPCD and paid its fees, EEI had not received the permit, which by law must be completed within six months. So, the company sought assistance. SDG&E, who EEI had signed a Power Purchase Agreement with, contacted SDAPCD and the following day the District issued EEI an Authority to Construct (ATC) permit for Kittyhawk.
According to the company’s Petition for Writ of Mandate theirs has been the only solid fuel facility construction permit issued by the SDAPCD since 1983. The CleanTECH data base lists approximately 50 bioenergy companies, none of which appear to be in production although they've been around for as long as EEI.
Construction of Kittyhawk, however, was not completed due to a hostile takeover attempt by Nexcore Capital in 2009 60 days before the project was scheduled to begin, dragging the company and its 362 stakeholders in legal battles that effectively stalled operations and froze assets for the following year. Consequently, the company lost its lease in Vista and laid off its employees during the interim. In 2010, when the dust settled, EEI relocated to an available warehouse in the City of Santee.
Arand explained that EEI promptly filed a Notice to Relocate with the Air Board. When, after many months, SDAPCD hadn’t responded, EEI reapplied. The fee-dependent District denied the company's request to move its approved ATC for its first project from Vista to Santee in 2011, demanding an additional $58,000 in fees beyond the original $8,500 paid. According to the filed Petition for Writ, the SDAPCD also demanded the company pay fees and file for a Certificate of Exemption for its prototype R&D system, then denied the Exemption for which the company paid $1,500. An additional $38,000 in fees would have been required in order to process—but not necessarily grant—an ATC permit for the R&D system in Santee, despite the fact that the facility’s size and technology remained the same.
Aside from the continual costly delays, Arand states that SDAPCD’s Chief of Engineering, Tom Weeks, disclosed the results of their analysis to the consultant of a potential lender prior to informing EEI of their decision. Yet, there is no Request for Public Records form from the consultant on file, which is required by SDAPCD prior to the release of records. The potential lender selected not to invest, and in April 2012 SDAPCD issued an Abatement Order.
EEI, committed to reducing the airborne toxins in San Diego’s air basin, objects to being detained from conducting business due to what the company refers to as political bantering, factual inaccuracy and departmental incompetence. Arand claims that the District’s decision was based on a faulty assessment that: a) didn't evaluate the company's combustion and emissions control technologies; b) utilized incorrect emissions factors to determine the quantities of toxic compounds at which health risks are deemed significant; and c) applied a floating standard for discharged air toxin levels that is mathematically impossible to meet.
“Our company has experienced some very disappointing events with SDAPCD in our efforts to develop combustion technology and permit facilities to produce renewable energy.” Arand said. “We believe that we have evidence to show that the District in question is not operating and processing ATC permits consistent with State law, and in some cases, not even bothering to complete the health risk assessments prior to issuing one of our construction permits under CEQA.”
According to Arand, regulations differ state to state. Florida and Alabama’s environmental divisions reviewed and could approved the company’s systems and related emissions’ data, regulatory agencies assured them that they could get the company up and running within 90 days for under $15,000, and the Emerald Coast Utility Authority is negotiating a $30 million disposal contract. So, Arand said, the company made the decision to leave California.
“We take it very seriously that an agency of the State is taking the liberty to implement the law inconsistently depending upon whom the applicant, or the fuel source may be, especially when it’s costing us something north of $6 million for us move our business out of State,” concluded Arand. “It’s curious to us that the State would choose to bypass the tax opportunity that our anticipated annual corporate revenue would provide, something like $3.4 billion--but that's another discussion in itself.”
EEI’s seven co-generation plants originally planned for construction in San Diego County would have produced 240 MW, enough power for 250,000 homes. They would have consumed the 5 million tons of solid waste the County produces annually.
Interestingly, no prior legal action had been taken against the SDAPCD previous to the installation of current management three years ago. Director Robert Kard now faces two legal suits. Ninety days after EEI filed itsWrit, Helping Hand Tools filed a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus on behalf of Escondido Energy Center and Wellhead Electric Company against the District stating similar complaints.
When contacted for a response, SDAPCD did not reply.