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HomeNewsArchivesWAPA CHIEF SAYS HE WON'T DEBATE CWT CHARGES

WAPA CHIEF SAYS HE WON'T DEBATE CWT CHARGES

Nov. 19, 2001 – Joseph Thomas, Water and Power Authority executive director, said Monday he will not get into a debate over allegations by the head of Caribe Waste Technologies that he made statements which were "factually inaccurate" and "not well founded nor in the best interests of the territory" regarding the company, chosen by the Turnbull administration to build, own and operate a gasification plant to process the territory's solid waste.
"We are rooted in the facts of what we believe to be the truth," Thomas said.
Mark Augenblick, CWT chief executive officer, wrote Thomas on Friday charging that Thomas had made "factually inaccurate" remarks in his written report at Thursday's WAPA board meeting and to the media. At the meeting, the board voted to halt further discussion on CWT's proposal to sell electrictiy and water that would be generated by the plant to WAPA at "avoided cost," the amount of money it would have cost WAPA to produce the power and water itself.
Thomas told the board there were too many drawbacks to the proposed facility to counteract the risks involved. The board had expressed grave doubts about the proposal's technological and financial viability at a series of meetings over the preceding six months.
In his letter, Augenblick told Thomas, "After a superficial analysis, you allege that certain problems and risks pose insurmountable problems for WAPA. We submit you are mistaken."
Thomas said on Monday that he had not yet received Augenblick's letter, but that it would not influence his position. "I'm not going to respond to his individual comments, because it gets us in an area we have deliberately avoided. We stand by our statements on record with regard to CWT's parent company's financial viability. We are uncomfortable with the project and take a dim view of it."
According to WAPA's attorneys, the utility cannot even vote on a proposed agreement with CWT until it is certified by the Public Services Commission. WAPA board member Andrew Rutnik, a former PSC member who on Thursday voted against canceling further discussions with CWT, said the board may have to reconsider its vote.
In his letter, Augenblick said CWT "will file with the PSC an application for certification that the solid-waste facility is a 'qualifying facility' persuant to Pargraph 4 of the recently discovered regulations. In addition, CWT will submit an opinion of counsel that these regulations require WAPA to purchase electricity at 'avoided cost.'"
Thomas said WAPA has not found that it is bound by the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act to buy electricity. "We cannot find the language that says we have to buy power," he said. He said his attorneys were studying the matter. "Even if we find out we are bound by legal requirements, CWT has to prove they are a qualifying source of power," he added.
CWT and WAPA jointly hired Stone and Webster, a utility consulting firm, to investigate what the avoided cost of the agreement to WAPA would be. In addition, WAPA hired Skadden and Arps, another consulting firm, to investigate CWT's technological and financial background. On Thursday, the WAPA board decided to retain Stone and Webster until it completes the avoided cost study, as the figure it comes up could be useful to the utility in any future negotiations.
Augenblick defended his $180 million gasification facility, which he has proposed to build on St. Croix to process all of the territory's waste. Gasification, a chemical processing of waste, produces water and energy.
In his letter, Augenblick raised questions about conversations Thomas said he had held with environmental consultants in Puerto Rico, including CWT's own consultant there. Thomas said Puerto Rico has opted for another solid-waste disposal process because CWT's technology is "not commercially proven."
Augenblick said Thomas' statements "do not accurately reflect what he was told" about the Puerto Rico situation. He said he would "submit their response evidencing what they, in fact, told Mr. Thomas."
Augenblick stressed the need for the Virgin Islands to take steps to solve its solid waste problem, noting that the territory is under a deadline from both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration to clean up its landfills by the end of 2002. "CWT's plant will eliminate 1.5 million pounds of pollutants from the territory's air yearly," he said. "This is positive news for WAPA and its investors."
He suggested the WAPA board make a trip to Karlsruhe, Germany to visit the Thermoselect facility there, which uses the gasification technology. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull visited the facility before announcing CWT as his choice to build the territory's plant.

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Nov. 19, 2001 - Joseph Thomas, Water and Power Authority executive director, said Monday he will not get into a debate over allegations by the head of Caribe Waste Technologies that he made statements which were "factually inaccurate" and "not well founded nor in the best interests of the territory" regarding the company, chosen by the Turnbull administration to build, own and operate a gasification plant to process the territory's solid waste.
"We are rooted in the facts of what we believe to be the truth," Thomas said.
Mark Augenblick, CWT chief executive officer, wrote Thomas on Friday charging that Thomas had made "factually inaccurate" remarks in his written report at Thursday's WAPA board meeting and to the media. At the meeting, the board voted to halt further discussion on CWT's proposal to sell electrictiy and water that would be generated by the plant to WAPA at "avoided cost," the amount of money it would have cost WAPA to produce the power and water itself.
Thomas told the board there were too many drawbacks to the proposed facility to counteract the risks involved. The board had expressed grave doubts about the proposal's technological and financial viability at a series of meetings over the preceding six months.
In his letter, Augenblick told Thomas, "After a superficial analysis, you allege that certain problems and risks pose insurmountable problems for WAPA. We submit you are mistaken."
Thomas said on Monday that he had not yet received Augenblick's letter, but that it would not influence his position. "I'm not going to respond to his individual comments, because it gets us in an area we have deliberately avoided. We stand by our statements on record with regard to CWT's parent company's financial viability. We are uncomfortable with the project and take a dim view of it."
According to WAPA's attorneys, the utility cannot even vote on a proposed agreement with CWT until it is certified by the Public Services Commission. WAPA board member Andrew Rutnik, a former PSC member who on Thursday voted against canceling further discussions with CWT, said the board may have to reconsider its vote.
In his letter, Augenblick said CWT "will file with the PSC an application for certification that the solid-waste facility is a 'qualifying facility' persuant to Pargraph 4 of the recently discovered regulations. In addition, CWT will submit an opinion of counsel that these regulations require WAPA to purchase electricity at 'avoided cost.'"
Thomas said WAPA has not found that it is bound by the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act to buy electricity. "We cannot find the language that says we have to buy power," he said. He said his attorneys were studying the matter. "Even if we find out we are bound by legal requirements, CWT has to prove they are a qualifying source of power," he added.
CWT and WAPA jointly hired Stone and Webster, a utility consulting firm, to investigate what the avoided cost of the agreement to WAPA would be. In addition, WAPA hired Skadden and Arps, another consulting firm, to investigate CWT's technological and financial background. On Thursday, the WAPA board decided to retain Stone and Webster until it completes the avoided cost study, as the figure it comes up could be useful to the utility in any future negotiations.
Augenblick defended his $180 million gasification facility, which he has proposed to build on St. Croix to process all of the territory's waste. Gasification, a chemical processing of waste, produces water and energy.
In his letter, Augenblick raised questions about conversations Thomas said he had held with environmental consultants in Puerto Rico, including CWT's own consultant there. Thomas said Puerto Rico has opted for another solid-waste disposal process because CWT's technology is "not commercially proven."
Augenblick said Thomas' statements "do not accurately reflect what he was told" about the Puerto Rico situation. He said he would "submit their response evidencing what they, in fact, told Mr. Thomas."
Augenblick stressed the need for the Virgin Islands to take steps to solve its solid waste problem, noting that the territory is under a deadline from both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration to clean up its landfills by the end of 2002. "CWT's plant will eliminate 1.5 million pounds of pollutants from the territory's air yearly," he said. "This is positive news for WAPA and its investors."
He suggested the WAPA board make a trip to Karlsruhe, Germany to visit the Thermoselect facility there, which uses the gasification technology. Gov. Charles W. Turnbull visited the facility before announcing CWT as his choice to build the territory's plant.