Get Adobe Flash player

admin

WAPA Spewing Heavy Pollution into Our Air

 

 

 

This is an example photo of the heavy, sticky soot being spewed into our environment by WAPA in St Thomas on December 5th, 2010.

Letter to NOAA Bureau Chiefs

February 14, 2010

Sarah Heberling, NOAA

Steve Meyers, NOAA

Dave Bernhardt, NOAA

Miles Croom, NOAA

Dear NOAA Chiefs:

The Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority is dumping an enormous amount of raw sewage onto Long Reef, St Croix, US Virgin Islands, and has been doing so all last week. Please see the VI Daily News article below.   Sadly, I learned from Paul Chakroff, Executive Director of the St. Croix Environmental Association, that Waste Management has been dumping large quantities of raw sewage every few months for many years, and DPNR has kept on allowing it, every time. Each time they claim it is an emergency, so that they can qualify under a provision in a 1990 consent order between DPNR and VI Public Works, which is attached.

Paragraph 17 of said agreement states “DPNR records document an extensive chronology of unpermitted discharges of untreated sewage into the waters on all three islands.” Now, 20 years later, Waste Management is still dumping raw sewage, every few months.    I have alerted Judith Enck, our new EPA Regional Administrator, of the dumping. Ms. Enck had just visited the Virgin Islands, and met with not only the local government but also with local environmentalists and concerned citizen groups, one of the first meetings of its kind here with federal agents, which we deeply appreciated. Barely two days after Administrator Enck left, Waste Management suddenly had another quarterly emergency and the dumping began again. The EPA is investigating the matter from their end, but it would help to coordinate agency efforts, and to let the USVI citizens know that you care, because they are killing our coral, and this dumping of raw sewage has been going on and on for years.

Since DPNR is under NOAA, and you are all bureau chiefs and coral experts, won’t you please force Waste Management and DPNR to come up with at least an interim plan, immediately, so they will not do any more dumping? Second, can any funds and personnel be released to evaluate and clean up Long Reef, before it is too late? I emailed Dr. Lisamarie Carrubba, our local NOAA contact, but she has not even responded. Again, this has been an ongoing problem, for decades.  Can’t we please get a task force down here, from National Headquarters, before it is too late?

Waste Management still has all residents throwing garbage into huge dumpsters, without any recycling.  They have agreed to the Alpine plan to build petroleum coke/oil/garbage burning plants here, using the heavy metal refuse from Venezuelan oil, hence very high in sulphur, emitting far greater CO2 than at present, right into Stalley Bay, which the local government characterized a few months ago as “pristine”, and filled with endangered species.

A lease has already been signed to build these plants in St. Thomas and St. Croix, with 444 million of  Virgin Island ratepayers’ money, then run these plants for 20 years, with a renewal for another 20 years. They plan to build a 10 million dollar dock in St. Thomas, with 300 foot barges driving in all of the petroleum coke, ammonia, and other products, and barging out 370,000 tons of fly ash per year, without any spills or accidents. There would be huge intake and outflow pipes of “treated water” going out into this “pristine” bay.  It is very windy here in the Virgin Islands. They plan to build silos to contain only 2 days worth of fly ash. What if the barges were to run into heavy weather several days in a row? Please see the attached letter to Senator Malone, urging him to take action and dispense with Alpine.

I am taking a similar approach with Alpine as to that which worked so successfully in Lindbergh Bay, as you all may remember from October, and caused the local government to withdraw their application to dump dredge spoils just a few days after the letter to USACE was published in the VI Daily News.

In addition to all the citizens and environmentalists who have written daily Letters to the Editor for many months now, and testified before the Senate, and the appeal of the Public Service Commission decision, I am consulting with federal agencies, supplying documentary proof, and publishing the legal analysis, but I am a private citizen, unpaid, without resources or clout of a federal agency. If NOAA has a position for this sort of work, I am your woman, but otherwise it would be of enormous help if the federal agencies would take a more proactive role here, beginning with stopping the dumping of raw sewage onto our reefs.

After all, your agency is spending millions to fund coral and coastal zone programs.  Those monies and efforts are wasted if raw sewage is being dumped on the reefs, and petroleum coke/oil/garbage plants belch out heavy metals, dioxins and high levels of CO2 for the next 40 years.  May we please form a coalition, now, of federal agencies, local agencies, environmentalists and citizens to address our waste and energy issues?  Thank you for your consideration in regard to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,

Susan K. Wolterbeek

 

Miyoko Sakashita, Esq., Center for Biological Diversity

Dr. Caroline Rogers

Dr. Jeff Miller

Judith Enck, EPA Administrator, Region II

Lindbergh Bay dump site scrapped

Daily News: Lindbergh Bay dump site scrapped
Megaship Oasis of the Seas will dock in Crown Bay; task force must find new site for harbor dredge spoils
By ALDETH LEWIN  

Thursday, October 15th 2009

ST. THOMAS – After months of tension between the government and the community, Gov. John deJongh Jr. announced Wednesday that dumping dredge material in Lindbergh Bay is now off the table.

At a Government House press conference, deJongh said an interim solution has been reached to have Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas dock at Crown Bay for the coming season while the government finds a suitable location to put dredge spoils.

St. Thomas Harbor must be dredged to allow Oasis of the Seas – the largest ship in the world – to berth at the West Indian Co. dock in Havensight. WICO and the V.I. Port Authority filed a joint Coastal Zone Management permit application in February to dredge the harbor and dump the 162,000 cubic yards of material into an existing depression in Lindbergh Bay.

The depression was created in 1935 when sand was removed to create the land base for King Airport. The 1935 dredging left a 33-acre, 35-foot-deep trench in the northern portion of the bay.

The St. Thomas CZM Committee approved the permit for the project in May and the Legislature ratified it in June – despite widespread public outcry. Opponents of the project, for the most part, were not against the dredging of the harbor, but were opposed to dumping of the spoils in Lindbergh Bay.

According to the CZM permit, three areas of the harbor will be dredged: the channel, the turning basin in the harbor and the area around the WICO dock. The dredging will make the depths a maximum of 40 feet in the channel and 37 feet in the turning basin and along the WICO dock.

The last hurdle the project had to clear was obtaining a U.S. Army Corps of Engineer permit. DeJongh said there have been many meetings with the federal agency, and he is confident a permit ultimately would have been issued.

“While we are fairly certain that after various filings with the Army Corps of Engineers and adherence to their internal processes, that a permit will be issued; I am mindful of the community’s concerns for the portion of the project that calls for the placement of the dredge spoils in Lindbergh Bay. Therefore, I have decided that a change in course is required,” deJongh said.

He said he has directed WICO and the Port Authority to eliminate Lindbergh Bay as an option for the deposit of the dredge material. Instead, a “mini task force” has been formed to consider alternate dump sites. The task force includes representatives from WICO, Port Authority, Tourism and Public Works.

In the meantime, an arrangement has been reached to shuffle ships between the WICO dock and the Port Authority’s Monsanto Marine Terminal at Crown Bay. Princess and Holland America had exclusive contracts with Port Authority to dock at Crown Bay, but they have agreed to dock at WICO on the days that the Oasis of the Seas is in port.

Port Authority Executive Director Kenn Hobson said while two ships of that size could fit at the pier, the issue was the number of passengers that will be disembarking at one time.

Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty said her agency will be closely working with the Port Authority to ensure that the passengers onboard the Oasis of the Seas have a positive experience.

She said she is working with the island’s taxi associations to develop better systems for getting passengers in and out of the facility and coordinating the drop-off locations so passengers traveling downtown are taken to both Market Square and Emancipation Garden to disperse the people better.

She said there is not as much room at Crown Bay for staging – getting passengers onto their tours – and that also must be addressed.

Hobson said to accommodate the largest cruise ship in the world, a new 175-ton bollard must be purchased and installed to tie the ship to when it docks. He said it will cost about $250,000 and while the Port Authority will pay for it up front – it will become a permanent part of the authority’s property – he is hoping an agreement will be reached with Royal Caribbean to help finance the purchase.

The Oasis of the Seas does all of its security screening outside the ship itself, so the Port Authority will need to acquire air-conditioned tents for the passengers to pass through. Royal Caribbean will supply the security screening machines which will stay on St. Thomas.

While it may not be the most comfortable solution, having the Oasis at Crown Bay for a year prevents the ship from dropping St. Thomas from its itinerary.

“Crown Bay is an interim solution,” deJongh said. He said he expects the task force to come up with an appropriate solution and obtain the necessary permits in enough time for the dredging to be completed by October 2010 so Oasis of the Seas can dock in Havensight for the 2010-2011 season.

With the interim solution, the Oasis will call on St. Thomas every Tuesday beginning Dec. 8. Next year, when its sister ship – the Allure of the Seas – is launched, the two megaships will alternate every other Tuesday in St. Thomas.

Royal Caribbean’s mega-ships will be the biggest on the ocean, carrying 5,400 passengers. The boats will have 16 decks, encompass 225,282 gross registered tons and boast 2,700 staterooms.

WICO President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Thomas said as additional conditions were placed on the project throughout the permitting process, the cost of the endeavor continued to climb. After the CZM permit was approved with conditions, the project jumped from $9 million to $12 million.

In discussions with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it was likely that additional conditions would have brought the project total to $15 million. Without the costs associated with the Lindbergh Bay dumping, Thomas said the total project cost likely would decrease. “There is no question in my mind that if we get to the right site and don’t have these issues, the costs could be adjusted downward,” Thomas said.

WICO has been fronting the money for the consultant and legal fees associated with the permitting process – $1.1 million has been spent so far, Thomas said. Royal Caribbean will reimburse WICO for all of those costs, Thomas said.

The cost of the dredging project itself will also be funded by the cruise line. WICO and the Port Authority will put out the money and the cost will be recovered through a surcharge assessed to Royal Caribbean. The final details of that process have not been solidified, Thomas said.

Thomas said the Army Corps permit application has been removed and the new task force will work to figure out how to proceed with the dredging project.

– Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 774-8772 ext. 311 or e-mail alewin@dailynews.vi.

Sewage diverted over St. Croix reef

Sewage diverted over St. Croix reef

By JOY BLACKBURN, Daily News Staff
Published: April 28, 2010

ST. CROIX — The V.I. Waste Management Authority started pumping sewage over Long Reef on Saturday because of a leak near the LBJ pump station.

According to a statement Waste Management released Tuesday, the authority diverted the wastewater flow to sea over the reef “to reduce the impact to the adjacent neighborhood and prevent sewer overflows in Christiansted town and surrounding areas.”

Although the statement said the diversion was because of a broken force main, spokeswoman Stella Saunders said the problem was a leak at the junction where a bypass line and the force main meet about 50 feet east of the LBJ pump station.

The bypassing over Long Reef started at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and was expected to continue for the next five days, according to the statement the authority released Tuesday.

Saunders said officials anticipate it will take that long to make the repairs, which involve letting the line drain, excavating, and repairing or replacing the affected parts.

The federal government last month filed an emergency motion in federal court seeking an order for the Waste Management Authority to make specific improvements at its Fig Tree pump station on St. Croix and at the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas to stop sewage from dumping into the sea.

In its motion, the federal government contended that between January and March, the authority discharged more than 50 million gallons of raw sewage into the Caribbean Sea — in violation of an amended consent decree and the Clean Water Act — because of pump failures at various times at both the Fig Tree and LBJ stations.

The resulting court order pertained specifically to Waste Management having operational pumps and backups at the Fig Tree station on St. Croix and at the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas, as well as ensuring St. Croix has two operational diesel pumps for emergencies.

The Waste Management Authority must also comply with public notification requirements.

The order does not deal specifically with the LBJ pump station or the problem that Waste Management says caused the current bypass.

“You have to realize this is an old system. We have to make repairs,” Saunders said.

John Senn, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said in an e-mail that the authority informed the EPA about the problem on Monday and that EPA has requested additional information.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and are hopeful that the discharge is stopped as soon as possible,” he said.

In its statement, the Waste Management Authority advised all residents with compromised immune systems to avoid the area during this time because the sewage may contain contaminants. It said signs will be posted on the beach reminding persons to avoid the Long Reef and adjacent beach areas until the force main is back in service.

Dumping Raw Sewage onto Long Reef

Dumping Raw Sewage onto Long Reef

On February 6, 2010, the VI Daily News reported that the VI Waste Management Authority (VIWMA)  was dumping raw sewage over Long Reef.

Upon reading the article that Saturday morning, GreenerVI.com President Susan Wolterbeek emailed Judith Enck, the newly appointed EPA Administrator for Region 2, (which includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and seven tribal nations). Administrator Enck responded that afternoon, saying she would take care of it, and she did.

On Monday, February 8, 2010, Jim Casey, our local EPA representative, immediately started the investigation and called Wolterbeek with an update. Mr. Casey’s investigation confirmed VIWMA was dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage over the reef, every day.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion in Federal District Court in mid-March to stop VIWMA from dumping any more raw sewage.

As reported by the Daily News:

“According to the order, Earl Haase, Waste Management’s director of wastewater, testified in court Tuesday about the Figtree pump station failures. He said Figtree receives about 1.2 million gallons of raw sewage a day, all of which was bypassed into the Figtree gut while all three pumps at the station were down. The problems at the Figtree pump station began Jan. 17 when electrical problems caused a pump to fail. ”

Therefore, by VIWMA’s own admission, approximately 72 Million Gallons of raw sewage was dumped onto Long Reef.  As the VI Daily News reported, before rendering a final written order, Federal District Court Judge Gomez  ordered Waste Management to do the following:

– Ensure the one working pump at Figtree station remains operational.

– Install a second working pump at Figtree by Tuesday.

– Comply with the public notification requirements as detailed in the Territorial

Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. According to the permit, the agency must notify the public by television, radio and newspaper each day a sewage bypass occurs.

– Ensure that St. Croix has two operational auxiliary diesel pumps for emergencies. The first must be obtained by Wednesday and the second by March 26.

– Certify that the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas has a six-inch and a four-inch auxiliary diesel pump in working order as backup for the 10-inch pump currently in operation.

The federal government said in Thursday’s court filing that in addition to the problems at LBJ and Figtree, the Barren Spot pump station on St. Croix and the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas also are in danger of failing as well.

The EPA issued a press release on March 22, 2010, as shown below, confirming these specific orders.  One would think that VIWMA would be very scrupulously complying with the federal court order, purchasing and installing all the replacement and backup pumps according to the judge’s schedule. Also note that VIWMA was to certify that two pumps at the Cancryn Pump Station, the main station of St. Thomas, are operational. Yet the VI Daily News article dated Friday, April 16, 2010, below, told a different story:

“Because of the frequent failures, Waste Management is planning to buy a number of upgraded pumps to replace the downed pumped and a backup for each station on St. Croix.” …“St. Thomas’ Cancryn pump station – the island’s main station - has been without a working pump for close to nine months, Cornwall said. A contractor is diverting flow around Cancryn to another station while cleaning takes place. The station should be back up and running by the end of April, Cornwall said.”

These  statements lead one to believe that the pumps have not been purchased yet, and that VIWMA could not have certified that the Cancryn Pump Station is operational, if it has been without a working pump for 9 months. Therefore, GreenerVI.org’s Wolterbeek has written the attached letter to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and Judith Enck, Administrator of Region 2 of the EPA.

Federal Judge Orders Upgrades on Illegal Sewage Discharges

Compliance and Enforcement News Release (Region 2): Virgin Islands Halts Illegal Sewage Discharge on St. Croix; Federal Judge Orders Upgrades

U.S. EPA [usaepa@govdelivery.com]

Mon 3/22/2010 4:03 PM

Virgin Islands Halts Illegal Sewage Discharge on St. Croix;
Federal Judge Orders Upgrades

Contacts: (News Media Only): John Senn, (212) 637-3667, senn.john@epa.gov, or Jose Font, (787) 977-5815, font.jose@epa.gov.

(San Juan, P.R. – March 22, 2010) Acting on a motion from the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Chief District Judge Curtis V. Gómez last week ordered that a pump at the Figtree Pump Station on St. Croix remain operational and that additional pumps be installed at the station after equipment failure there led to the illegal discharge of millions of gallons of raw sewage over a two month period. The Justice Department, acting on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed an emergency motion on March 11 to have the discharges from the Figtree Station stopped. This followed an EPA order on March 2 requiring the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority to stop discharges from the Figtree and LBJ pump stations. The discharge from LBJ, which was pumped over Long Reef north of St. Croix, had been stopped on February 26, and the Figtree discharge was stopped on March 17 when a pump was moved from the LBJ station to the Figtree station. Contact with polluted water, usually during swimming, can cause infections and illnesses, especially among children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

“The continued discharge of raw sewage from a pump station in St. Croix was simply not acceptable,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “Discharges of raw sewage are a potential threat to public health, and are destructive to the incredible natural resources, such as coral reefs on which much of the Virgin Islands’ people and its economy depend.”

Equipment failure at the Figtree Pump Station on St. Croix led to a daily discharge of 300,000 to more than 1 million gallons of raw sewage from January 17 to March 17 into Cane Garden Bay or over Long Reef, both of which feed into the Caribbean Sea. The LBJ Pump Station was by-passed to reduce the raw sewage flowing to the Figtree Pump Station. Under normal operating conditions, sewage passes through the LBJ Pump Station, goes to the Figtree Pump Station, and then flows to the Anguilla Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Under Judge Gómez’s order, the Waste Management Authority must install a second house pump at the Figtree station by tomorrow, make sure St. Croix has two functioning auxiliary pumps by Friday, certify that two pumps at the Cancryn Pump Station are operational and comply with public notification requirements regarding sewage discharges.

Initially, the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources took action to stop the discharges by issuing a Notice of Violation to the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority. When the authority failed to correct the problems, EPA issued the order directing the Waste Management Authority to immediately stop the discharges. EPA’s order also required the Waste Management Authority to implement measures to prevent equipment failures. The discharge of raw sewage is regulated by EPA under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, a component of the federal Clean Water Act.

“Measures to prevent the failure of equipment and contingency plans for quickly addressing damaged equipment did not exist or utterly failed in these incidents,” Enck added. “We expect the Virgin Islands to have plans in place to prevent these types of discharges from happening in the future.”

For more information on how EPA regulates the disposal of sewage, visit http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/home.cfm?program_id=5. For more information on EPA’s work in the U.S. Virgin Islands, visit http://epa.gov/region2/cepd/vilink.htm.

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/eparegion2.

Recent dumping of 72 million gallons of raw sewage over Long Reef

Joycelyn Hewlett
Civil Chief/ FLU Supervisory Attorney

United States Attorney’s Office
United States Courthouse & Federal Building
5500 Veteran’s Drive, Suite 260
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands 00802-6424

Re:  Recent dumping of 72 million gallons of raw sewage over Long Reef

Dear Attorney Hewlett:

I am a stateside attorney and former NYC Assistant District Attorney, and am writing in regard to VIWMA’s dumping 72 million gallons of raw sewage over Long Reef from January 17th through mid-March, 2010.  The VI Daily News reported that Federal District Court Judge Gomez directed VIWMA to do the following:

– Ensure the one working pump at Figtree station remains operational.

– Install a second working pump at Figtree by Tuesday.

– Comply with the public notification requirements as detailed in the Territorial Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. According to the permit, the agency must notify the public by television, radio and newspaper each day a sewage bypass occurs.

– Ensure that St. Croix has two operational auxiliary diesel pumps for emergencies. The first must be obtained by Wednesday and the second by March 26.

– Certify that the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas has a six-inch and a four-inch auxiliary diesel pump in working order as backup for the 10-inch pump currently in operation.

The federal government said in Thursday’s court filing that in addition to the problems at LBJ and Figtree, the Barren Spot pump station on St. Croix and the Cancryn pump station on St. Thomas also are in danger of failing as well.

One would think that VIWMA would be very scrupulously complying with the federal court order, purchasing and installing all the replacement and backup pumps according to the judge’s schedule. Also note that VIWMA was to certify that the Cancryn Pump Station, the main station of St. Thomas, is operational, with two back-up pumps. However, according to the VI Daily News article dated Friday, April 16, 2010:

“Because of the frequent failures, Waste Management is planning to buy a number of upgraded pumps to replace the downed pumped and a backup for each station on St. Croix.” …“St. Thomas’ Cancryn pump station – the island’s main station –  has been without a working pump for close to nine months, Cornwall said. A contractor is diverting flow around Cancryn to another station while cleaning takes place. The station should be back up and running by the end of April, Cornwall said.”

These statements lead one to believe that the pumps have not been purchased yet, in direct violation of the District Court Order.

I wrote to Jim Casey, Virgin Islands Coordinator of EPA Region 2 on Monday, April 26, 2010 to suggest that the EPA  may want to  confirm that VIWMA has complied with the March District Court Order. Then, the next day, VIWMA again allowed raw sewage to flow into our coastal waters and the Caribbean Sea.  It was emphatically stated that this new release of raw sewage was a pipe issue, not the pumps, but you may want to find out whether VIWMA bought and installed the pumps as specified in the court order, or just submitted a plan to do so.

Further, the March Court Order states that Cancryn pump station “is in danger of failing”, not that it has already failed, waste is currently diverted around Cancryn, and that station has been without a working pump for 9 months.  According to the Order, VIWMA had to certify in March for Cancryn that there are 4 inch and 6 inch auxiliary backup pumps in addition to a working 10 inch operational pump. Yet, VIWMA stated in April that the Cancryn pump has not been working for 9 months, so how could they possibly make such a certification?

According to NOAA, “coral reefs buffer adjacent shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion, property damage and loss of life. Reefs also protect the highly productive wetlands along the coast, as well as ports and harbors and the economies they support. Healthy reefs contribute to local economies through tourism. Diving tours, fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based near reef systems provide millions of jobs and contribute billions of dollars all over the world. Recent studies show that millions of people visit coral reefs in the Florida Keys every year. These reefs alone are estimated to have an asset value of $7.6 billion (Johns et al., 2001).”

You may be aware of the enormous oil spill which is near Florida and appears to be headed for the Florida Keys, where NOAA and Coral experts have been protecting and recolonizing coral. If Florida’s coral dies from this massive oil spill, we must be all the more protective of the coral in the USVI.

There remains only 3 percent left of the coral of 30 years ago.  Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral are currently protected by the Endangered Species Act, and the Center for Biological Diversity has filed a formal petition to protect 83 more imperiled coral species, seven of which are local to the U.S. Virgin Islands.  These corals already face a growing threat of extinction due to rising ocean temperatures caused by global warming, and the related threat of ocean acidification.  Now 72 million gallons of raw sewage has been dumped onto the reefs, then more on Tuesday. Steps must be taken to ensure there will be no more dumping, or the reefs will be gone.

Sincerely yours,

Susan K. Wolterbeek

cc: Judith Enck, EPA Administrator, Region 2

Miyoko Sakashita, Oceans Director, Center for Biological Diversity

Collaborative Caribbean Alternative Energy System

December 8, 2009

Ban Ki-Moon

Secretary-General of the United Nations

2 United Nations Plaza,
New York, NY 10017

Re: A Collaborative Caribbean Alternative Energy System

Dear Secretary-General Ban:

I write to you on behalf of  many thousands of citizens and environmental associations of the U.S. Virgin Islands.  While the world is focused on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen with the goals of  reducing the burning of fossil fuels, and  reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, our local Virgin Islands government, without prior knowledge or consent of its citizens, intends to build power plants on St. Thomas and St. Croix, costing 444+ million dollars, to burn petroleum coke and garbage for 20 years with a renewal for a further 20 years, all at a very high cost to the ratepayers, polluting the atmosphere and these beautiful islands known for their clean air and water.

Petroleum Coke Plants Must Not Be Built

The combustion of petroleum coke generates 40% more CO2 than combustion of fuel oil, which is used at present in the USVI.  Compared to coal, combustion of petroleum coke emits higher concentrations of all the major components of air pollution, including highly toxic chemicals and heavy metals that are especially dangerous to young children and the unborn.

On these islands, our household and drinking water comes from rainwater falling onto  roofs, and collecting in our cisterns. Unless the power plant scrubbers work perfectly, the plants will put out a fine, ashy substance which will pollute the  air, and thus our roofs and water, and will be a major stressor for the staghorn and elkhorn coral, protected under the Endangered Species Act and  struggling to survive and recolonize in the very bay the petroleum coke would be barged into, powerful thrusters churning up the waters with each barge delivery.

Citizens Of The Virgin Islands’ Human Rights Are Being Violated

We citizens were not given notice of the Public Service Commission hearing.  Those who did find out were only given literally 3 minutes each to speak, then a further 2 minutes each, and organizations and attorneys were treated the same, while the proponents were given over 8 hours to make a prepared presentation of their side.

This fundamental unfairness toward concerned citizens and environmental groups is a consistent pattern in hearings before V.I. boards and commissions, and since our Governor refuses to comply with local laws and fill member positions in the Board of Land Use Appeals, we have no board to even listen to appeals of clearly illegal CZM decisions.

The Alpine project must be stopped immediately, and truly green alternative energy sources explored. Attached are many Letters to the Editor of the Virgin Islands Daily News, written by concerned citizens, letters by the St. Croix Environmental Association, and a report on coal’s assault on human health by the Physicians for Social Responsibility, which all help to illuminate the facts and details of the project.

A Collaborative Caribbean Alternative Energy System

As you confer on a global level at the climate conference, would you consider the USVI as an example, a model for a green alternative energy system which may be used successfully here, and also in the multinational Caribbean collectively, perhaps with geothermal energy in a grid with Nevis or Saba, and ocean thermal energy conversion for St. Croix, as well as solar and wind use.

This would be a dynamic environmental step in the right direction globally.  If the collective Caribbean community would agree to be mutually supportive by working together with the other islands and nations involved, on a common grid, we would be able to create a strong, sustainable, cost effective,  alternative energy system. This collaboration and general plan could be formed during your conference.

Secretary-General Ban,  if you would consult with the United States delegates on this letter, surely they would then contact us. We seek assurance from our federal government that it will now help enforce our Constitutional Rights and address our many environmental concerns including this Alpine energy matter.

Hopefully, with other Caribbean islands, we can work to make a collective alternative energy grid system.  Thank you for your consideration in regard to this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Susan K. Wolterbeek

Letter to the Corps of Engineers — part 2

Letter to Corps of Engineers details arguments against Lindbergh Bay dumping
Susan K. Wolterbeek
Tuesday, October 6th 2009

In regard to the West Indian Co. and V.I. Port Authority’s application to dump dredge spoils in Lindbergh Bay, on Sept. 28, I also wrote the following open letter to Jose Cedeno-Maldonado, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Antilles Office, headquartered in San Juan:

WICO’s Dumping Will Cause Harmful Turbidity and Sedimentation

Previously, when WICO’s co-applicant, the VI Port Authority and expert Amy Dempsey investigated dumping into Lindbergh Bay in 1998, the Port Authority wrote:

“After the inspection of the site and revisiting the proposed area to be dredged in Charlotte Amalie Harbor, we could not recommend the deposition of this fill material in the depression in Lindbergh Bay. Much of the material to be dredged is just as silty and fine as that in the depression in Lindbergh Bay. Deposition of these materials in Lindbergh Bay would further degrade the water quality within Lindbergh Bay.”

Neither WICO nor their expert Dempsey have shown how that material has become less silty in the past 11 years, or why it would not degrade the water quality now.

The primary concern of all the federal agencies in this case appears to be WICO’s ability, or lack thereof, to prevent sediment and turbidity from fouling the waters and injuring the aquatic resources of Lindbergh Bay.

The EPA recommended rejecting WICO’s permit application, writing in May 21, 2009: “In summary, EPA believes that the proposed dredging of the Charlotte Amalie Harbor and the subsequent disposal of the dredged material at Lindbergh Bay could result in unacceptable impacts to significant aquatic resources.”

In its response to said EPA letter, and being fully aware of the vital importance of this issue, WICO stated that: The dredged material, including sediment and water, resulting from the mechanical dredging will be loaded into a containment barge with no discharge of sediments or water to the surrounding environment. The material and water will be transported to Lindbergh Bay where it will be placed using a tremie tube. No supernatant water will be released or discharged from the barge at the dredging site.”

Clearly, the EPA did not believe the above statement by WICO, stating by email dated July 15, 2009:

“Release and resuspension of these fines represents the greatest ecological threat

associated with this project. It is irrelevant whether the grain size distribution of the

sediment is within the normal range for pristine sites and its relationship to the

grains size distribution within the Lindbergh depressions is also irrelevant. Releases

will occur during and shortly following discharge before the material has de-

watered and compressed.”

The National Marine Fishery Service found WICO’s statement to be false as well, writing on July 10, 2009: “Applicant states that “turbidity will be greatly reduced” by the use of a clamshell bucket. NMFS has never observed a clam shell dredge that did not leak like a sieve as it was being lifted up from the bottom and into the barge, so we would like information regarding the new clam shell technology available to the applicant.”

NMFS continued: “Do not believe the statements regarding supernatant water are possible. How can they ensure no water enters tremie tube for discharge in Lindbergh Bay if material will be taken immediately to disposal site once it is dredged?  Where will the water go? Do not believe that barges are ever 100 percent contained, but even if they are, where will water that drains from dredged sediments into barges be disposed of? How will the turbidity curtain “force any suspended sediment downward into the water column? … In addition, in the response it is indicated that the boom to be used in Lindbergh Bay needs to allow some escape of sediment-laden water to remove pressure on boom.”

Thus, even if the proposed dumping were to work exactly according to plan, turbidity and sedimentation discharges will result, and are expected to occur, from the projected dumping in Lindbergh Bay.

WICO admits this in its response on June 24, 2009, to comments from attorney Jeff Weiss dated May 22, 2009:

“Pressure created by tidal changes and the depositing of dredge spoils must be

relieved and some water containing sediments must be allowed to escape.”

Another factor to bear in mind is that although each individual planned discharge might not cause significant sediment or turbidity, the cumulative effects and/or the secondary effects of these discharges can still result in a major impairment of the water resources and interfere with the productivity and water quality of existing aquatic ecosystems.

Further, one must fully consider the likelihood of accidental groundings or malfunctions of barges, human error and any accidental or incidental spills from the barges along the way. Will the barges be 100 percent contained and enclosed? If not, how much spillage will occur, how often, from each barge load? Will these barges be driven under their own power, or pushed by tugboats?

WICO intends to have its workers dredging and dumping onto barges, then navigating to Lindbergh Bay, watching for turtles and other wildlife, and making sure there are no sludge spills, in all weather, at all hours, nonstop, 24 hours a day, to dump the barge loads, yet WICO only intends to have two wildlife monitors for this project. Either both people will be working 12 hour shifts for 90 days without rest, or WICO plans to dredge and dump some of the hours or some of the days without any monitors present.

WICO says it is easy for the monitors to spot plumes, and, if necessary, stop work immediately. The biologists cannot see the plumes if they are sleeping, or off duty. Without a team of several independent wildlife monitors to watch for turtles, to watch for spillage and accidents and to stop all activity when necessary, the monitoring plan is unreasonable, and the likelihood of negative impacts to aquatic resources are probable.

Staghorn Coral

In the case at hand, both staghorn and elkhorn coral are found living in Lindbergh Bay, and WICO has not disputed that fact. Whereas elsewhere in the USVI these threatened corals are dying off, so that we only have 3 percent left of the coral of 30 years ago; in Lindbergh Bay the elkhorn corals are actually expanding, growing new recruits.

Under section e. Threatened & Endangered Species, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers specifically lists staghorn coral as one of the several endangered and threatened species in Lindbergh Bay which WICO needs to address in various sections of the application.

However, WICO did not analyze the project’s impact on staghorn coral at all, completely ignoring a threatened species.

Where is the staghorn coral in Lindbergh Bay? WICO identifies this threatened species as being located in the fifth quadrat of its benthic survey, but does not include staghorn coral in any of its lists, responses or analyses, in contravention of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers guidelines and the ESA.

The dump site is close to the Critical Habitat of Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral.

Under “Potential Effects Species / Critical Habitat” WICO states: “There is no hardbottom in the project area … rocky shorelines along the edges of the bay do provide attachments for corals, but these areas are well outside the influence of the project.”

How many feet away is “well outside the influence of the project”? WICO’s own Exhibit L reveals that the critical habitat of the staghorn and elkhorn coral almost completely line both sides of the bay. Therefore, this is another area of the application where the facts are again in conflict with WICO’s misstatement, in that some sections of the threatened corals’ critical habitat are very close to the dumping site.

Pollution, sedimentation and turbidity are stressors to Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral

There is disagreement about the level and type of pollution in the dredge spoils, and since WICO refuses to disclose the full lab report, the complete data and analysis are still not known.

When pollutants are discharged, nutrient levels (nitrates and phophates) in the water can increase. This can lead to an excessively nutrient-rich environment (eutrophic), which encourages algae blooms and the growth of other organisms that can stifle corals or outcompete them for space (Jones & Endean, 1976). In addition, direct sedimentation can smother a shoreline reef, and staghorn and elkhorn coral are particularly sensitive to sediment as they are among the least effective of the reefbuilding corals at trapping and removing sediment from their surface.

Sediment may also increase the water’s turbidity, which, in turn, obscures the light on which corals thrive. Light deprivation ultimately will starve a coral, which is dependent on its symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) to generate food photosynthetically (UVI, 2001; Bryant et al., 1998). NOAA website.)

This project would damage Staghorn and Elkhorn Corals’ Critical Habitat.

Thus far, WICO has continually tried, over the past several months, in a long series of questions and responses, plans and diagrams, to prove to the federal agencies that the proposed dumping will not cause turbidity and sedimentation, detrimentally affecting Lindbergh Bay. WICO has not been able to satisfy the agencies yet.

Pursuant to 73 FR 72210, “Elkhorn and staghorn coral require relatively clear, well-circulated water and are almost entirely dependent upon sunlight for nourishment …”

Staghorn and elkhorn coral are protected under the Endangered Species Act. Pursuant to the 4(D) Rule of the ESA, the definition of “take” includes that no one may damage the species’ habitat or discharge any pollutant or contaminant that harms the species.

Pursuant to 40 CFR Part 230, subpart B, Sec. 230.10 (b) (3), no discharge of dredged or fill material shall be permitted if it results in the likelihood of the adverse modification of critical habitat.

With the close proximity of the dumpsite to sections of the staghorn and elkhorn corals’ critical habitat, which is particularly sensitive to sediment and turbidity, combined with the agreed fact that discharge of sediment and turbidity will occur, even during normal operation, there is indeed a likelihood of the adverse modification of critical habitat. Therefore, the permit should be denied.

This project will negatively impact the food source of a protected species

I am an avid snorkeler, and have observed that many large areas of other seagrass beds around St. Thomas in the past few years have turned yellowish brown or died off completely. Lindbergh Bay is blessed with lush beds of seagrasses that serve as an “extremely important nursery ground” (Kadison) for thousands of juvenile queen conch, as well as being the food source of the threatened green turtles who live in Lindbergh Bay, and who rely heavily on those seagrasses.

As shown by the Kadison Environmental Marine Survey dated March 14, 2009, turtle grass now comprises 90 percent of the total composition of seagrasses in the bay. “This is important to note because turtle grass generally takes longer to establish in a disturbed area than manatee grass or sea vine, and is considered a more stable habitat.”

The Supplemental Kadison Response dated Sept. 25, 2009, emphasizes that sea turtle densities are relatively high in this foraging area and that three months of constant barge activity, using props and thrusters, will disturb and destroy significant seagrass beds: “The amount of seagrass to be impacted by the project is severely underestimated by the applicant as are the benthic organisms that exist in the depression.”

Kadison strongly recommends WICO conducts a thorough study of the bay, including quantative data on the abundance of seagrasses below 26 feet. This study, (with any additional agency input) would address the concerns raised by National Marine Fishery Service in its discussion of quantification of seagrass coverage at No. 3 of its e-mail dated July 10, 2009.

Please consider how much the props and thrusters would ruin this important food source, how difficult it is to successfully transplant seagrass, how long it will take to replenish, and where around St. Thomas all of the turtles affected are supposed to find food in the months or years ahead.

Formal, not informal, consultation with NOAA

This is a permit application involving several species protected under the Endangered Species Act. Even if the project were to go according to plan, with no accidents, the cumulative effects of three months of heavy barges with props and thrusters going deep inside Lindbergh Bay, constantly stirring up the water, will affect the staghorn coral, elkhorn coral and their critical habitat.

This project also will affect the green turtles and hawksbill turtles that live in Lindbergh Bay, as well as their food sources. If there are any accidental dumpings of dredge spoils, the situation would be that much worse, and accidents can be expected when the work is constant, pressured, 24 hours a day.

Please be protective of the aquatic resources of Lindbergh Bay, and conduct a formal consultation with NOAA, pursuant to your own guidelines. After all, it is the policy of the Corps to encourage the propagation of proposed and listed species and protect proposed and designated critical habitat: “14. Formal Consultation. In those cases where it is determined that listed species or critical habitat may be affected by an activity undertaken by the Corps, formal consultation under the ESA is required.”

Public Interest

Pursuant to 33 CFR 320.4, this project must be evaluated by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that it would not be contrary to the public interest. Lindbergh Bay has the only beach in St. Thomas serviced by public transportation. There are three hotels on Lindbergh Bay, a restaurant and a children’s park. The businesses bring $30 million to the island per year and employ 100 Virgin Islanders. These are hard numbers, not speculative, like the assumption of how much megacruiseship passengers will spend downtown, when they have enticing well-stocked boutiques on board.

There has been an enormous outcry by the people of the Virgin Islands against this dumping. On this small island, even with tens of thousands of citizens working for either the local government or the cruise ship industry, still over 2,000 residents have signed petitions not to dump in Lindbergh Bay.

Several environmental and citizen groups have together filed appeals of the CZM decision. The dredging and dumping issue is often discussed on the radio and in all walks of life, throughout the territory. The newspapers have published dozens of articles, letters and photographs, almost all for the dredging and against the dumping. There have been several informational and fundraising events, and more are scheduled.

The citizens of the Virgin Islands were not all allowed to attend the CZM hearing. CZM was notified in advance of the large numbers of citizens planning to attend the meeting. Nevertheless, CZM refused to hold the hearing at a larger facility, despite the fact that it had done so in the past for other hearings. Thus, not all citizens could hear or be heard on this highly publicized, highly criticized permit application. The public has not yet been able to see the entire lab report, even though it has been subpoenaed.

Gov. John deJongh Jr. said in his letter dated March 30, 2009, that he was gratified to learn that dumping dredge spoils in Lindbergh Bay “will not compromise, but will improve the quality of the water …” Clearly we cannot depend upon our governor to protect our coral, despite the fact that he is a member of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force.

The V.I. Legislature’s deputy chief legal counsel Tharpes advised, in detail, why the CZM issuance of the Coastal Zone Permit was inconsistent with the requirements of the CZM Act, and is therefore illegal. Nevertheless, the subcommittee of the VI Legislature ignored her legal advice and ratified the permit.

Therefore, with the local V.I. government strongly behind the dumping, DPNR is put into a conflict of interest. Should the permitting go forward, DPNR would be the local enforcement, and would have to act, at times, contrary to the very strong wishes of its employers.

There is too much that can go wrong, if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allows the dumping in Lindbergh Bay because U.S. Army Corps of Engineers undoubtedly would be granting the permit subject to many limitations, which would then have to be enforced strictly, and promptly.

It is clear that an enormous amount of pressure has been brought to push this permit forward, and it would be very difficult for a local agency, such as DPNR, to shut the project down, if necessary, for environmental reasons.

There is much public outcry in this matter, and for very cogent reasons. Lindbergh Bay has many important functions right now, growing recruits of elkhorn coral, providing lush seagrasses to green turtles, a nursery to thousands of juvenile queen conch. It is the home to staghorn and elkhorn coral, to Nassau grouper, and where a leatherback laid her nest. Finally, the bay is lined on both sides with the critical habitat of staghorn and elkhorn coral. The objective of the federal agencies is to get these projects done , if they can be done safely and appropriately. The dumping portion of the project cannot be done safely and appropriately. There are other alternatives, such as the St. Croix site, for WICO to utilize.

Conclusion

This permit should be denied. USACE recognizes Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001 as applying to statements made by applicants in permitting matters, and since WICO made several false statements or representations about material issues, its permit should be denied and WICO should be given appropriate sanctions.

This reasoning is twofold: first, to deal appropriately with actions already taken, and second, to preclude any further misrepresentations or negative impact on the environment. If applicant has been trying to cut corners, in its haste to get this project done, and is not being truthful at this juncture, it is illogical to expect an applicant to become more scrupulous in the future once it has gotten the green light.

If the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decides to proceed regardless, please leave Lindbergh Bay alone. This bay serves an important function as a nurturing home to many endangered and threatened species, their food sources, and the critical habitat of staghorn and elkhorn coral. Please seriously investigate alternative sites, and recommend them, or have WICO apply for the waiver in Puerto Rico.

– Susan K. Wolterbeek is an attorney on St. Thomas.

Letter to the Army Corps – part 1

Letter to Army Corps of Engineers details arguments against Lindbergh Bay dumping
Susan K. Wolterbeek
Monday, October 5th 2009

Part 1 of 2

In regard to the West Indian Co. and V.I. Port Authority’s application to dump dredge spoils in Lindbergh Bay, after speaking with people who work with U.S. Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, I have written to Ellen Doneski, legislative director of that committee.

I also spoke with and wrote a similar letter to Katherine Romans, who works with the Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife, under the Congressional Committee on Natural Resources. Both committees now have preliminary documents to aid them in investigating this matter.

On Sept. 28, I also wrote the following open letter to Jose Cedeno-Maldonado, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Antilles Office, headquartered in San Juan:

“Dear Mr. Cedeno-Maldonado:

It was a great pleasure to meet with you. Thank you for your patience in dealing with non-biologists, and for your conscientious attitude in regard to this matter. Pursuant to your suggestion, I wrote to Mark Reiss, of the EPA, concerning WICO’s continuing refusal to release Lancaster Laboratories’ entire report.

On Friday, Mr. Reiss and I had an in depth conversation for over two hours, touching on many subjects. In regard to the issue of the lab report, Mr. Reiss has not seen the entire laboratory report either.

Therefore, since the report has been subpoenaed, and concerned citizens and V.I. senators have repeatedly requested this report, as you are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager, won’t you please direct Permit Applicant WICO to have Lancaster Laboratories send a copy of the entire laboratory report directly to the CZM, who should then make the report available to anyone wishing to view and copy any portions of it?

Surely the federal agencies do not agree with WICO, in secreting the report, and refusing to allow U.S. citizens to see the full analysis of the sludge intended to be dumped in our public bay.

Alternative Sites

Time Constraint Created by WICO

In this matter, although timing was apparently critical to the applicant, WICO chose to start the application process quite late. WICO did not submit additional documents, plans and studies which were requested by the CZM.

WICO chose to not consult early in the application process with the EPA and other federal agencies. WICO chose to submit materials that were kicked back by the federal agencies as incomplete, inadequate and not supported by facts.

Thus, WICO has created its own time pressure. WICO then has been using this time pressure, of its own making, as its excuse to severely restrict the careful consideration of alternative sites.

WICO representatives have said emphatically, repeatedly, that they must start dredging by the first week of September, or they will not have the time to complete the project by the target date. It is now in the fourth week of September, thus the target date is no longer possible.

If WICO would still like to continue with the project, then it must comprehensively consider alternative dump sites, which is mandated by federal law, and which you repeatedly requested in your letter dated June 8, 2009, and again in your letter dated July 21, 2009, when you further reminded WICO of 40 CFR Part 230.10 (a): “[N]o discharge of dredged or fill material shall be permitted if there is a practicable alternative to the proposed discharge which would have less adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem, so long as the alternative does not have other significant adverse environmental consequences.”

St. Croix Alternative

In WICO’s first set of responses, dated June 24, 2009, answering your letter of June 8, 2009, WICO stated: “In regard to the use of uplands in St. Croix for sediment disposal, we have learned that the landfill at this location is in the process of closing down and is not available to take additional fill material.”

The above statement is false. To underscore this fact, the St. Croix Renaissance Group wrote a letter on July 7, 2009, specifically stating its willingness to receive the dredging spoils on a part of its 1,200 acres of land in St. Croix. This organization has always been willing to receive these dredging spoils.

Later, in WICO’s Response to Agency Request for Additional Information Part 2, dated Aug. 4, 2009, WICO stated: “The owners have since withdrawn all offers to accept the dredge spoils for this project and have only agreed to pursue permits for acceptance of future material. (See e-mail from Jack Thomas of the Renaissance Group at Attachment D.)”

However, said e-mail does not state that the St. Croix Renaissance Group has withdrawn their offer. Indeed, they never have.

The above statement by WICO is also false, or at the very least, grossly misleading, with no attempt made to verify the facts. By letter dated Sept. 15, 2009, the St. Croix Renaissance Group again confirmed and reiterated their wish to receive the dredging, stating:     “We are at a loss over the statement made and confusion regarding the dredge spoils, as our letter dated July 7, 2009, states contrary.”

Twice, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has requested that WICO include the St. Croix site in their analysis, and twice WICO has answered your request with false information, to preclude the St. Croix site from being considered as an alternative site to Lindbergh Bay.

Title 18, United States Code, Section 1001 makes it a crime to knowingly and willfully make any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch of the United States.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recognizes this statute as applying to statements made by applicants in permitting matters, and cautions them accordingly. The requirement that the falsehood must be “material” is met if the statement has the “natural tendency to influence or [is] capable of influencing, the decision of the decisionmaking body to which it is addressed.” (United States v. Gaudin, 515 U.S. 506, 510 (1995))

The alternative sites issue is at the crux of this case; if WICO dumps elsewhere, there is no opposition to its permit application.

But WICO does not want to dump in St. Croix, or even have the federal agencies consider the St. Croix site, thus it made the two statements cited above. WICO has given you false information, in writing, on two sep.

Does U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have a protocol for dealing with applicants who give false information?

Will U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reject the permit at this point, or have you reiterated your requests of June 8 and July 21, 2009, that WICO provide a comprehensive analysis of the St. Croix site now?

Mr. Reiss stated that he has not been informed of any details about the St. Croix site, so one can conclude that the site has not been under consideration yet.

This alternative site is on a large tract of land and may be ideal for the dredge spoils. With the Sept. 15, 2009, letter from the Renaissance Group in hand, will WICO now be performing that alternative site analysis U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been requesting?

Puerto Rico Dump Site

Similarly, there are Puerto Rican dump sites available, and apparently the off-shore site between Vieques and the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, Yabocoa Harbor, offers a reasonable disposal alternative for certain Puerto Rican dumping projects; anyone else would require the granting of a waiver, or a change in the rule.

As recently as May 27, 2009, V.I. Sen. Craig Barshinger purportedly spoke with Mr. Sindulfo Castillo, and Mr. Castillo stated that: “The Army Corps hopes that the Applicant will consider alternate dumping sites. There are alternate dumping sites available right now.”

The EPA would have to amend the rule to allow dredging spoils from the USVI. Apparently, if WICO had only requested a waiver from the EPA, early on, when WICO should have begun this permitting process, Mr. Reiss would have then gone through the analysis and necessary steps to make a determination whether to modify the language to allow WICO’s use of the dump site.

In that instance, no one would have opposed the permit, and WICO would be going forward with everyone’s backing, once WICO had finally given sufficient data to satisfy the various federal agencies. There is nothing to prevent WICO from requesting a waiver, or modification of the rule, now.

Is it not reasonable to request that WICO fully explore this option, particularly when it has been already considered to be an appropriate and available alternative by Mr. Castillo of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers?

Will you recommend that WICO apply for a waiver, now, since these sites are available and time is no longer an issue for WICO?

This permit would then be in compliance with 40 CFR Part 230.10, should WICO dispose of the dredging at the St. Croix or the Puerto Rico site, neither of which are inhabited by endangered or threatened species, or people, as opposed to Lindbergh Bay, which is teeming with endangered and threatened species, and is utilized currently by thousands of tourists, three hotels, a restaurant and a children’s park.

Letter to Senator Malone

March 2, 2010

Senator Shawn Michael Malone
28th Legislature of the Virgin Islands
P.O. Box 1690
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 00804
smmalone1@yahoo.com

Dear Senator Malone:

This is an open letter.  It was great to talk with you on Saturday at the Emerald Beach Hotel. In regard to our conversation, I am writing to urge you to take a position in line with the promises made by our local and federal governments to other nations, and to communicate with the Senate before Monday’s scheduled vote on Alpine’s leases.

The United States, Iceland and New Zealand have a signed agreement stating that the U.S. Virgin Islands has been chosen to be a pilot project for renewable energy, citing the examples of geothermal, wind and solar energy. Anthony Babauta, Assistant Secretary of the Interior discussed this Energy Development in Island Nations project when he spoke with the VI Legislature on November 19, 2009. Governor deJongh committed the USVI to this project, saying that it gives us the opportunity “to move forward on our clean energy strategy”.  Thus, both our Territory and the United States government have made the firm commitment to the U.S. Virgin Islands utilizing renewable energy.

Alpine’s proposed petroleum coke/oil/garbage power plants would use 150 tons a day of  pelletized refuse derived fuel and 375 to 475 tons a day of petroleum coke, which is the waste from refining oil, a very dirty energy source, hazardous to human health, high in CO2 emissions, terrible environmentally, and not renewable energy. In addition to the petroleum coke, Alpine plans to burn up to 4,600 hours of diesel oil per year, or 12.6 hours of oil every day, which is not renewable energy. Finally, unestimated are the many thousands of gallons of fuel oil which would be burned by all of the ocean-going barges, because Alpine’s system is dependent upon 300 foot barges constantly hauling in petroleum coke, limestone, diesel fuel, ammonia, activated carbon and hauling away 375 thousand tons of fly ash, the waste left over from burning the petroleum coke.

If the VI Senate approves the Alpine Project, committing the VI to burn petroleum coke, oil and garbage for 20 years+, the VI Senate is knowingly and willfully violating the agreement made between the VI, the United States, Iceland and New Zealand. Thus, each Senator who votes for Alpine is acting against the agreement made by President Obama with the countries of Iceland and New Zealand, and against the support offered by the U.S. Departments of Energy and the Interior.

By making a stand for the environment, international relations and federal funding, your  Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection will be viewed as having the voice of reason, logic, and international diplomacy. Please review the below analysis with Virgin Islands Legislature’s Deputy Chief  Legal Counsel Tharpes and convey to the Senate why and how the Alpine Project must be stopped now, so that we may together focus on renewable energy solutions to our energy issues.

The Senate Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection has jurisdiction over Alpine and all matters pertaining to it

The wording of Rule 522 of the Twenty-Eighth Legislature of the Virgin Islands is clear and unequivocal:

The jurisdiction of the Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection encompasses and the Committee shall consider all matters pertaining and related to land use and development, building codes, community planning and development, zoning and city planning, shorelines, beaches, territorial parks, libraries, museums, fish and wildlife,     natural resources and environmental protection, Coastal Zone permits and leases, landfill and solid waste disposal systems and their impact on the environment and all matters pertaining to the environment.

As you are the Chairman of the committee with legal jurisdiction over this matter,  it is most  appropriate pursuant to Rule 501 (a) that your committee “investigate, study and evaluate” the Alpine Project.

Alpine’s is an oil driven project, and thus contrary to the very intent of WAPA’s RFP

WAPA issued its RFP “to reduce the costs of providing electricity to its customers and to decrease WAPA’s dependence  on volatile oil prices…”.  The Alpine project would use 150 tons a day of  pelletized refuse derived fuel and 375 to 475 tons a day of petroleum coke, which is the waste from refining oil, thus it is an oil product and its sale is tied to the oil industry.

However, petroleum coke prices are more volatile than oil prices. Between 1998 and 2008 the cost of petroleum coke rose by a factor of 18 fold on the Mediterranean Market, while crude oil prices increased only by a factor of six fold. Hovensa already sells all the petroleum coke it generates, in a competitive market, and WAPA would be a new customer, increasing the market need, which could drive the cost up.  Under these agreements, WAPA, and thus we ratepayers, would be committed to buying the petroleum coke, no matter how high its cost, for many years.

In addition to the petroleum coke, Alpine plans to burn up to 4,600 hours of diesel oil per year, or 12.6 hours of every day. This 4,600 hours of diesel is also an oil product.

Finally, one should consider the fuel oil being burned by the ocean-going barges, because Alpine’s system is dependent on that fuel as well. Alpine states that the petroleum coke storage building is 300 feet by 130 feet by 30 feet high, which is sized to hold the capacity of two barges. Thus, the barges involved are very large, and burn great quantities of fuel. The petroleum coke would be constantly barged 40 miles from St. Croix, and the limestone, diesel fuel, ammonia, and activated carbon would be barged in from some undisclosed place.

Apparently, the 107 thousand tons of solid waste and the 370 thousand tons of fly ash created per year would be barged out from Alpine to some other undisclosed location, which process and liability the Alpine plan does not even address.  This means that Alpine requires many barges to burn hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel oil, hauling these barge loads of product back and forth through the ocean and our coastal waters, in order for the project to work.

Alpine lacks qualifications, experience, and commercially proven technology, yet won the bid

There are contentions that the bidding process unfairly favored Alpine, that Alpine did not meet the requirements of the RFP, and thus should not have won the bid.  Dr. Eddie Donoghue submitted many documents addressing this issue, along with the clip of a radio interview of Noel Loftus, a member of the Board of Directors of WAPA, who purportedly admits WAPA began negotiations with Alpine before the RFP was even sent out to prospective bidders.

Alpine was formed in 2007, the year the WAPA RFP was issued, and Alpine did not even have a license to do business in the VI until July 8, 2009. Being newly formed, Alpine has no experience, not even the 3 years required by the RFP, and  the principals Beach and Hurd do not have a successful track record in their former companies for constructing and operating comparable facilities.

Further, the RFP requires that the technology proposed is commercially proven. Instead, Alpine’s proposed process has never been tried anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, WAPA chose Alpine over the other bidders, and Alpine signed an agreement with Property and Procurement.

Property and Procurement did not have the Authority to enter into any Lease Agreements concerning docks, or binding the VI Govt. to pay future environmental cleanup costs.

As the Virgin Islands Legislature’s Deputy Chief  Legal Counsel Tharpes stated in her memorandum dated November 3, 2009, in regard to the St. Thomas facility, “Property and Procurement lacks authority to lease any premises for a dock”, citing 12 VI Code Section 911, and goes on to say that “the dock constitutes consideration for the lease.”

The large dock is integral to the Alpine operation, as the plan is to load barges of petroleum coke from Hovensa in St. Croix, drive them to St. Thomas, and into Stalley Bay, then, offload these tons of materials onto the dock, along with barge loads of other materials, such as limestone, diesel fuel, ammonia, and activated carbon. Apparently the dock would also be used to fill barges with the 107 thousand tons of solid waste and the 370 thousand tons of fly ash created per year and barged out to some undisclosed location.

Please review Alpine’s plans and the extensive dock and conveyor system.   Since the dock is important to the project, and Property and Procurement did not have the ability to authorize the Alpine dock, the contract is voidable.

Deputy Chief  Legal Counsel Tharpes also cited Title 33 VI Code Section 3101as another law rendering a key element of the Alpine contract unenforceable. Property and Procurement cannot contract with Alpine, under Section 11.05, for the VI Government to pay some undetermined allotment of future hazardous clean-up costs, which could run in the tens of millions, in advance of appropriations made for that purpose.

The Public Service Commission acted in violation of the Sunshine Laws and Act 7075

According to the Appeal filed by the VI Ratepayers:

The PSC did not give the public adequate notice of its hearings, nor access to documents and transcripts. The PSC refused to allow ratepayers the opportunity of presenting expert testimony showing that the Alpine agreements would increase, not decrease, electric rates. The PSC refused to order a rate investigation or hold a formal hearing prior to issuing its order affecting the rates.

The PSC failed to hold open to the public and to provide notice of all of the PSC’s (or any of its agent’s) meetings with WAPA and / or Alpine or the agents of either in violation of the Sunshine Act and Public Records Act.

The PSC only had authority to set the rate, not ratify the Alpine contract. Further, the PSC acted in direct contravention of  Act 7075, passed in 2009, which states in pertinent part:

“(a) The peak demanded generating capacity of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority
must be derived from renewable energy technologies as defined in title 30 V.I.C., section 46,
subsection (m), and as follows: 20% by January 1,2015; 25% by January 1, 2020; and 30% by
January I, 2025; and the percentage thereafter must increase until a majority of the
generating capacity of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority is derived from
renewable or alternative energy technologies.” Emphasis added.

WAPA must first develop “renewable” energy solutions, defined in Section 1101 as solar, wind, biomass, landfill gas, hydroelectric, ocean, including tidal, wave current, and Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC), or geothermal, not oil and petroleum coke.

Should the Federal District Court agree with the ratepayers, after all filings and hearings, the Court will remand the matter to the PSC for further fact finding and investigation. This appeals process could take months, if not years.  Your committee’s investigation and memorandum explaining the determination to end the Alpine agreements could be accomplished in weeks.

The health of Virgin Islanders is paramount

A significant cost of this project is the effect of Alpine’s emissions on the health of the people who live here, particularly those who live close to the proposed facilities. The health threats such as cancer, asthma and other respiratory diseases are real, and well-documented.

Some of the carbon and particulate matter in Alpine’s emissions will be in the form of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, whose toxicity is measured in parts per billion. These toxic substances are too dangerous to human health and human life.  If a mistake is made, or there is negligence at a power plant,  the result could be fatal to many, as in Tonawanda, New York, where people are dying of cancer and the benzene emission levels at a facility were found to be 75 times the recommended guidelines. Bolongo and Bovoni Homeowners Associations passionately object to the Alpine projects, as do thousands of others who live here.

Stalley Bay is pristine and should not have a large dock built to accommodate huge barges

You may recall that just a few months ago WICO planned to dredge St. Thomas Harbor and dump the dredge spoils into Lindbergh Bay. WICO prepared an Alternative Site Analysis for Stalley Bay at that time, and its argument, before Coastal Zone Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was that Stalley Bay was pristine, and should remain untouched, with lush seagrass beds, the food source of Green Turtles, along with the Green Turtles, Hawksbill Turtles, Elkhorn Coral and its Critical Habitat, all of whom are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Pursuant to the 4(D) Rule of the ESA, the definition of “take” includes that no one may damage the species’ habitat or discharge any pollutant or contaminant that harms the species. In this case, there would be intake and outflow pipes from Alpine into our coastal waters. The barges would be going to Stalley Bay all the time, for 20+years, with powerful engines churning the water.  Elkhorn Coral require relatively clear, well-circulated water and are almost entirely dependent upon sunlight for nourishment.
It is highly likely that NOAA’s Chapter 7 consultation would find that the elkhorn coral, and its critical habitat would be negatively impacted by these activities. The construction of the Stalley Bay dock itself would also negatively impact on the elkhorn coral and its critical habitat.

Further, by the time Alpine were to apply to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers for the license to build the dock, there may be other local corals in Stalley Bay on the Endangered Species List in addition to the Elkhorn Coral already identified.  At least 8 of the 83 corals mentioned below are local, and may well be located in Stalley Bay.

We must reduce, not heighten, the present level of CO2 or the coral will die

The Alpine Project calls for heightened CO2 emissions, at a time when the world leaders are meeting and trying to lower them. The EPA plans to regulate CO2  emissions starting in April of this year. Not only will the heightened CO2 affect the atmosphere, it will kill our coral.

When I worked on the Lindbergh Bay matter, you may recall that I networked and established a watchdog group consisting of local and national coral experts, NOAA bureau chiefs, and Miyoko Sakashita, Esq., Oceans Director for The Center for Biological Diversity, the organization responsible for getting Elkhorn and Staghorn Coral, and their Critical Habitat, placed on the Endangered Species List.

On October 12, 2009, The Center for Biological Diversity “filed a formal petition seeking to protect 83 imperiled coral species under the Endangered Species Act. These corals, all of which occur in U.S. waters ranging from Florida and Hawaii to U.S. territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, face a growing threat of extinction due to rising ocean temperatures caused by global warming, and the related threat of ocean acidification.

Not only is greenhouse gas pollution causing corals to bleach and die, but it also makes it difficult for corals to grow and rebuild their colonies. Ocean acidification, caused by the ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide, is already impairing the ability of corals to build their protective skeletons. At CO2 levels of 450 ppm, scientists predict that reef erosion will eclipse the ability of corals to grow.  Moreover, ocean acidification and global warming render corals even more susceptible to other threats that have led to the present degraded state of our reefs, including destructive fishing, agriculture runoff, storms, sea-level rise, pollution, abrasion, predation, and disease.

Leading coral biologist Charles Veron warned in a recent scientific paper that at current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere (387 ppm) most of the world’s coral reefs are committed to an irreversible decline. Other scientists have warned that CO2 concentrations must be reduced to levels below 350 ppm to protect corals and avoid mass extinctions on land and sea.

‘The coral conservation crisis is already so severe that preventing the extinction of coral reefs and the marine life that depends upon them is an enormous undertaking. The Endangered Species Act has an important role to play in that effort,’ added Sakashita. ‘But without rapid CO2 reductions, the fate of the world’s coral reefs will be sealed.’

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2009/coral-10-20-2009.html


NOAA would contest Alpine to protect the coral

NOAA is spending millions on coral projects, trying to help grow new coral colonies and save the remaining coral we have from extinction. NOAA is doing its utmost to save coral. Why would NOAA agree to increase our CO2 emissions, when that kills coral? The 250-300+ foot barges alone, going back and forth to that dock in Stalley Bay, for over 20 years, churning the water with their powerful engines, would certainly kill the Elkhorn Coral there, which need clean, clear water and sunlight to survive.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife would contest Alpine to protect the VI Tree Boa and Prickly Ash

The Virgin Islands Tree Boa is the only snake native to the Virgin Islands. According to the VI DPNR and the Division of Fish and Wildlife, this rare and beautiful snake has the highest probability of being found on the eastern end of St. Thomas, therefore in or near the area where the plants would be built. This snake is protected by local and federal Endangered Species Acts, and if this project destroyed the Virgin Island Tree Boa’s habitat on the Eastern end of St. Thomas, that might well lead to its extinction in the Virgin Islands. For this very reason, the Division of Fish and Wildlife has reason to object strongly to the Alpine Project.

St. Thomas Prickly Ash is a rare plant protected by the Endangered Species Act. In 1988 there were just 300 plants total, and it was feared then that the population was on the decline, due to land development and thus elimination of the habitat of St. Thomas Prickly Ash.  It is found in just a few areas on St. Thomas, St. John and Puerto Rico, including Bolongo Hill. Therefore, there may be St. Thomas Prickly Ash affected by the Alpine Project. On February 20, 2009 US Fish and Wildlife commenced a 5 year review of the rare plant, and perhaps some data is available to your Committee now.
Public Interest

As the elected representatives of the People, the Virgin Islands Legislature takes the opinions of its citizens very seriously. There has been an outpouring of Letters to the Editor against the Alpine Project, many citizen groups have formed, many meetings have been held, and people have testified before the Senate, objecting to the Alpine Project. The VI Ratepayers Association has filed an Appeal in Federal District Court, an international media campaign is being launched, and surely your committee wants to do the right thing, stop the Alpine deal now, and form a coalition to find the answers.

If your committee would review the materials submitted on January 13th , the bidding documents, contracts and all the other evidence, in consultation with Legal Counsel to the Senate,  you will have clear legal authority to void the Alpine contracts.

If your investigation shows that the bidding process and choice of Alpine was improper, then you can also demand our $5,000,000 Five Million dollars back from the Advisors, who were not looking out for the best interests of our islands, our people, or our environment.

Proposal

As the Chairman of the Committee on Planning and Environmental Protection, this is a golden opportunity for you to do the right thing in the eyes of your people, the federal agencies, and our President, who are all committed to lowering CO2 emissions and American reliance on fossil fuels.

I suggest that the most efficient and effective way to address our waste and energy issues would be to work together, in a coalition comprised of concerned citizens, environmental groups, and local and federal governmental agencies now, together, at the outset, with an interactive website offering materials and facts open and available to everyone.  We can make this a model Territorial and  Caribbean renewable and alternative energy project, perhaps utilizing a combination of solar, wind, geothermal, ocean thermal, or other energy sources.

Our waste and energy issues could be the focus of a University challenge, where professors would bring their collective genius to bear on the problem, and their students would benefit from the hands- on experience of working on the project. Students would be able to work on the project and receive credit, and perhaps UVI would be able to host the collaborative effort.

If we do this together, it will streamline the entire process, because there will not be a unilateral decision made, then stiff opposition by citizens and federal agencies. Instead, we will all be working together, from the outset, to find the solution to our waste and energy problems.
If we have transparency, a great website, a willingness on everyone’s part to collaborate and informed people communicating effectively, we can achieve a lot, very quickly.  Much can be accomplished via the website, email and telephone. Thank you for your consideration in regard to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,

Susan K. Wolterbeek

cc: Judith Enck, EPA Administrator, Region II
Anthony Babauta, Assistant Secretary of the Interior
Adam Warren, National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Donna C. Christensen, VI Delegate to Congress
Steve Meyers, NOAA
Miyoko Sakashita, Esq. Center for Biological Diversity
J. Lowe Davis, Editor in Chief, VI Daily News

Register to Vote / Subscribe

Please provide your Confidential email to vote and receive updates

Donate Your Time and Money