GVEA board voices concerns, but allows spending up to $20 Million to fix Healy 2

Members of GVEA’s board and executive team confer during Monday’s meeting. From left: John Sloan, secretary; Gary Newman; John Burns, board attorney; Susan Redlin, executive administrative assistant; Rick Schikora, board chair; Cory Borgeson, president and CEO; Bill Normark, treasurer; Tom DeLong, vice chair; Chris Bunch; Dave Messier. (Tim Ellis/KUAC)

Golden Valley Electric Association’s board of directors approved a multimillion-dollar plan Monday to repair the Healy 2 power plant. Two board members voted against the proposal, saying they’ve got concerns about the coal-fired plant design and cost.

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Most of the board members in Monday’s meeting expressed concerns over the problem-plagued Healy 2 power plant. But only two voted against a management proposal to spend up to $20 million to repair the system that feeds coal into the power plant’s boiler.

Tom DeLong told his fellow directors that he’s concerned about the unproven technology built into the 50-megawatt facility, which he says is the only one of its kind.

“Everyone knows I’m not a fan of coal,” DeLong said, “but what I’m really voting against is the technology.”

DeLong also said he’s disappointed with the contractor GVEA hired to evaluate the system.

Director Gary Newman also voted against the measure. But he and DeLong both declined to talk about their votes on tape after the meeting.

Newman said board members were concerned about the $175 million Golden Valley has spent on Healy 2 since buying it from the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority in 2013. The plant ran for about eight months before it was shut down in March of 2016 after an explosion caused by a buildup of coal dust in the plant’s coal-handling system. It was restarted after GVEA spent another million dollars in repairs, then shut down again in November after another smaller explosion.

The resolution approved by the board Monday authorizes spending up to $20 million to fix that problem. Newman said Golden Valley increased its initial $10 million estimate for the project last week after getting more information about scope of work required to get the power plant operational.

Hollis Hall, who sits on the utility’s Member Advisory Committee, told the board that some GVEA’s ratepayers also have concerns over Healy 2.

“Most of the members just wonder when we’ll be able to get Healy 2 on board,” Hall said. “It’s taken a long time.”

Hall said in an interview after the meeting that members want Healy 2 up and going because they believe the coal-fired electricity it would generate will reduce their monthly bills.