State fines Pasco company $24,000

The state has fined an environmentally focused energy company $24,000 for building a synthetic fuel reactor at the Port of Pasco without the proper air quality permit.

Green Power Inc. knowingly violated state law because it chose to complete the plant's construction despite being aware a permit was required, the Washington Department of Ecology found.

Karen Wood, who supervises the state air quality program, said Michael Spitzauer, chief executive officer for Green Power, applied for the permit in February 2008, about eight months after the company began building the synthetic fuel reactor.

The completed reactor had the potential to release toxic air pollution while operating, she said.

She said Ecology staff based in Spokane tried to work with Spitzauer to help the company get its permit, but Green Power failed to provide information needed to determine the plant's safety.

State law requires an air quality "notice of construction" permit before construction begins, which Green Power was notified of in 2007.

By April 2009, construction had progressed to the point that the plant was operational. It was designed to convert100 tons per day of solid waste into liquid and gaseous synthetic fuel. Whatever gaseous synthetic fuel could not economically be processed would be burned, resulting in emissions that included high-potency carcinogens such as dioxins and furans.

Wood said Green Power refused to say what emissions would be released, so staff officials were unable toevaluate the air pollution potential.

The penalty is based on a fine of $4,000 per day for six site visits by inspectors with the city of Pasco, who documented construction occurring at Green Power's facilities between June and December 2008.

Wood said Spitzauer's refusal to provide air emissions data triggered the investigation and penalty.

"This case has been aggravated by the fact that Mr. Spitzauer was fully aware of the law at the time of construction," she said.

Spitzauer was not available at the Pasco office Thursday and did not respond to a request for an interview.

But a consultant hired by Green Power to help the company satisfy state rules said Spitzauer will cooperate with the Department of Ecology.

Wood said in a statement issued Thursday that Green Power may appeal the fine to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board within30 days.

-- John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com