PUC hears public on power plant proposal

CABRAS: The Cabras power plant complex is shown in Piti in July 2016. Officials say the Cabras plant will be decommissioned after a new power plant is built. Post file photo

Many of the concerns and comments around the proposed 198 megawatt power plant over the last month were brought before the Public Utilities Commission during a public hearing on Tuesday.

Utility officials sat with environmentalists, parents and teachers as they testified before PUC Chairman Jeff Johnson and Chief Administrative Law Judge Fred Horecky during the hearing. 

“I spend a lot of time with the youth of our island and I can’t ethically return to the schools and purport to care for my students and not speak out on this power plant and any other actions that threaten the viability of life on this island and our planet,” Talofofo resident and educator Moñeka De Oro testified. 

The proposed power plant will use ultra-low sulfur diesel and is capable of burning liquid natural gas.

De Oro’s concerns – as were the concerns of others attending the hearing and in the meeting that took place in the weeks beforehand – are the continued use of fossil fuels and the adverse impact it will have on the climate and the environment. 

“We are in Micronesia, we are at the forefront of the climate crisis,” De Oro said. “Our cousins in the Marshalls and Kiribati and other low-lying atolls in the (Federated States of Micronesia) are threatened by sea level rise and they may be lost within the next 30 years. ... I don’t necessarily know what the way is, but spending $600 million on this is just a crime to future generations.”

The Micronesia Climate Change Alliance obtained more than 1,000 signatures in an online petition to stop the new power plant. Michelle Voacolo, the organization's founder, said adding more fossil fuel infrastructure amid the falling cost of renewable power alternatives “questions long term viability and stranded asset risk.” 

She also testified as an individual ratepayer, and, as such, said she was concerned with the history of the company chosen to construct the plant: Korea Electric Power Corp. 

The former vice president of KEPCO was among 100 officials and suppliers charged with corruption over faked safety certificates for nuclear reactor parts in 2013, the Voice of America reported. 

Voacolo made note of this incident and also pointed to reports of a 2015 investigation into KEPCO and a 2018 scandal concerning illegal shipments of coal to South Korea. 

“Needless to say, I do not feel comfortable that a company with a history of scandals and corruption has entered into an agreement with Guam Power Authority for the next 30 years,” she said. 

Simon Sanchez, a member of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, testified in support of the power plant as did former CCU member Eloy Hara. The CCU unanimously approved the proposal in September. 

Sanchez pointed to deficiencies with relying solely on renewable power and the cost of reliability. 

“GPA records show that last April, the Dandan solar farm failed to produce energy for 13 days when Guam’s rainy weather made it impossible to make sufficient solar energy,” he said.

The cost of the new power plant is estimated to be $3.1 billion over 25 years in today’s dollars. But this is reliable and efficient energy that would lead to savings for ratepayers, Sanchez said. The cost of an equivalent renewable energy facility would $3.7 billion, he added.

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