Public hearings scheduled Thursday on Alpine Energy Group’s Coastal Zone Management permit for a St. Croix waste-to-energy plant near Diageo distillery have been postponed because AEG temporarily withdrew its request until related St. Thomas permits and approvals are further along, government and AEG officials confirmed Tuesday.
While the permit was formally withdrawn at the request of AEG, it was really a joint decision reached between the Department of Planning and Natural Resource’s CZM division and AEG, said Andy Hixson, AEG’s vice president for environmental and permitting, in a phone interview Tuesday evening.
The St. Croix plant must be fed by trash from throughout the territory to have enough fuel, and a St. Thomas plant to process trash into fuel pellets is integral to the current plan.
"We had a call from CZM last week and basically reached a mutual agreement to temporarily delay the hearing because the project on St. Thomas is waiting on a Senate vote on the lease there," said Hixson. "We thought it made more sense for the two projects to march together rather than let St. Croix go ahead of St. Thomas. They are related even though they have two separate approvals; and we thought it made more sense for both the public and regulatory staff to look at the combined effects, and not approve half the plan while the other half is waiting on hold."
Reached Tuesday afternoon, DPNR spokesman Jamal Nielsen echoed Hixson’s account.
"St. Croix alone does not produce enough garbage to fuel the plant," Nielsen said. "You cannot give approval for one without the other because they are all part of the same project. It has to be a comprehensive approach."
In his letter requesting the postponement, Hixson said Alpine will continue work with the V.I. Department of Property and Procurement and the Legislature to get a lease for the processing facility planned in Bovoni on St. Thomas.
"Once the path forward and schedule on the lease [are] finalized Alpine will request the reactivation of the application," Hixson wrote.