New & Noteworthy: Kahului Questions, Hu Honua, Corrections

posted in: February 2018 | 0

Kahului Questions: A company that wants to use energy crops from 500 acres of Alexander & Baldwin land on Maui, produce biogas, and use the fuel to run a power plant that will provide electricity to Maui County’s Kahului wastewater treatment plant has published a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the facility.

The company, Maui All-Natural Alternative, or MANA (a subsidiary of alterna- tive energy giant Anaergia), has signed an agreement with the county that calls on it also to take sludge from all three Maui County wastewater plants — at Lahaina and Kihei, in addition to Kahului — and dry it out by use of waste heat and excess biogas. After drying, the DEIS states, the sludge “will be considered a Class A fertilizer that will be returned to the County of Maui for its use as a soil amendment.”

But the DEIS is unclear on whether the plant will be linked to Maui Electric’s grid. The main text says no, as do several letters written last fall in response to the EIS preparation notice and appended to the DEIS (including a letter to the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands).

But an appendix produced after those letters says yes. According to an air quality study by Trinity Consultants of Sacramento, bearing a date of November 17, the plant “will produce 800 kW of gross electricity on average, 480 kW of which will be sold to the utility and the remainder used on site.” That would suggest the wastewater treatment plant demand is around 320 kW.

Jeff Walsh, Anaergia’s director of business and development for Hawai‘i and the Pacific, told Environment Hawai‘i that the plant will not be producing any power for export and that the statement that it will, by Trinity, is “a misquote. … All power will be consumed onsite.”

Elsewhere in the DEIS, there’s the suggestion that the 800 kW won’t even be sufficient to power the sewage treatment plant. In a letter to the Maui group of the Hawai‘i Sierra Club, MANA’s Jeff Walsh stated that the sewage treatment plant “will not be taken off the MECO grid. … During normal operations, the [wastewater treatment plant] will be supplied by both MECO and MANA power.”

Comments on the DEIS are due by February 6. For more information and a link to the DEIS, see the Office of Environmental Quality website: oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov.

Hu Honua Remand: The Intermediate Court of Appeals has issued a ruling in the appeal of the Hawai‘i County Windward Planning Commission’s decision in 2011 allowing the Hu Honua power plant to move forward.

The ICA rejected several of the arguments made by the plant’s opponents but found in their favor in one key respect. At the time the amended Special Management Area permit was approved in 2011, Hu Honua had no stated plans to work in the coastal area or within the SMA more generally. However, an ocean outfall that jutted out from the face of the cliff fronting the plant was later discovered to be broken off at the cliff face.

During the contested-case hearing on the amended SMA permit, representatives of Hu Honua said they were continuing to investigate ways to address the collapsed outfall. But the Planning Commission made no finding of fact or conclusion of law to address this.

“Thus, because it is not clear what repairs or replacements will take place with regard to Outfall 001, Hu Honua did not make an affirmative show- ing that any work done will not conflict with the principles and purposes of the public trust doctrine,” the ICA panel found. “Therefore, … the Planning Commission granted the amended SMA permit in violation of constitutional provisions.”

The matter was remanded to the Windward Planning Commission with instructions that it should address the impacts to the shoreline from repairing or replacing the outfall.

Corrections: In our December “Board Talk” item on Maui water permits, we incorrectly stated that 2016’s Act 126 grew out of the 2015 legislative ses- sion. Also, in our January cover story on Maui water issues, a caption erroneously stated that the photo depicted a stream gage in Waikapu Stream. In fact, the photo shows a gage on the Parshall flume flowing into Reservoir #1.

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