Energix solar may face fines

Published 6:26 pm Thursday, July 28, 2022

Meghan McIntyre

The Farmville Herald

The State Water Control Board last month proposed enforcement action against a Buckingham County solar facility after inspections revealed multiple violations of the State Water Control Board regulations and its pollutant discharge elimination system permit.

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The enforcement action was issued in a June 8 consent order to Israeli renewable energy company Energix EPC US LLC for its Buckingham Solar II LLC facility, located at 23 Highrock Road. The consent order is considered a draft and awaits the public comment period to end Aug. 3 before it can be finalized.

The draft order proposes Energix pay a civil fine of $23,773 to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and perform a list of corrective actions related to the violations.

Two DEQ inspections last year found 200 feet of sediment contamination in a nearby stream, missing sediment traps and erosion of stormwater runoff infrastructure, among other violations.

Sediment is the loose sand, clay and other soil particles that stormwater carries into nearby bodies of water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency lists sediment as the most common pollutant in rivers, streams and lakes, causing $16 billion in environmental damages annually. EPA states it degrades the quality of water for drinking, destroys wildlife habitats and natural food chains and can cause toxic algae blooms.

The DEQ Piedmont Regional Office issued Energix a Notice of Violation last year on Nov. 3 after the first inspection Sept. 28. Energix representatives and DEQ staff met to discuss the notice Dec. 16, the day of the second inspection when additional violations were found.

Matt Richardson, DEQ representative at the Piedmont Regional Office, stated in an email that Energix has since removed the sediment from the nearby stream.

The facility sits on about 470 acres, which are split into five parcels near Route 60, and generates 20 megawatts (MW) of electricity, according to its 2018 permit application.

DEQ staff will review public comments after the period ends to determine if changes need to be made to the draft. If so, the agency can renegotiate with Energix and potentially send a new draft out for an additional comment period. Once the draft is finalized, the Piedmont Regional Office Regional Director will sign the consent order, making it effective.

A consent order is a voluntary agreement worked out between two or more parties to a dispute, according to the Legal Information Institute. It allows the parties to negotiate a settlement or an agreement for the dispute without the time and expense required by a formal administrative hearing in front of a judge.

Energix is currently facing another enforcement action with a $68,250 fine from the DEQ for similar violations at its Caden Energix Wytheville T-647 project, located within both Wytheville and Wythe County.

In response to a request for comment Energix Public Affairs and Communications Manager Danny Fitzpatrick stated, “Energix strives for excellence, if not perfection, in all that we do. As long-term partners with the communities we work in, it is tough to see mistakes occur on our construction sites. As we all know, mistakes happen. Energix is working with DEQ closely to correct these weather-related issues. With our Buckingham site, like all our sites Virginia, we are committed to ensuring the highest quality work and to be the best neighbor we can be.”

Those interested in sending a public comment can visit https://bit.ly/3becEtZ, which is the enforcement page on the DEQ website. Click on public notices under the resources tab to find the consent order. The period ends on Aug. 3.

This article was updated on 8/5/22 at 12:08 p.m. to include a response from Energix.