New & Noteworthy: Tradewinds, Ezra, Honors

posted in: August 2008 | 0

Tradewinds Moves Forward: The company that has been holding for years the right to harvest trees from the state’s Waiakea Forest Reserve, near Hilo, has taken a step forward. The company, Tradewinds LLC, has signed an agreement with the Big Island utility, HELCO, to deliver some 2 megawatts of power to the utility over a 20-year period, beginning in Oc- tober 2010. By then, Tradewinds hopes to have completed work on a power plant in O‘okala, which will burn waste from the veneer plant it says will be up and running by mid-2009.

The company has applied for a clean air permit for the veneer mill, but in February two residents of O‘okala petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency, asking that the permit be denied.

Tradewinds received the license to harvest timber from nearly 9,000 acres in Waiakea nearly seven years ago. Since then, it has requested and received from the state time extensions and other amendments to its original agreement. Under the most recent terms (October 2005), the deadline for completion of both the veneer plant and the power plant was July 1, 2008, with a “drop dead” deadline of January 1, 2009.

Paul Conry, administrator of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife, said he was aware of the slippage in schedule. “They’ve sent notice saying they’re requesting extension of that July 1 deadline until the end of the year,” he said. “In the meantime, they’ll comply with the conditions in the license,” calling for advance payment of $3,000 a month in so-called “stumpage fees” until January 1. If they’re still not compliant with license terms by then, Conry said, the matter will go back to the Board of Land and Natural Resources for reconsideration.

Ezra on Wastewater, Light Rail: U.S. District Judge David Ezra is expected to issue another ruling soon in the ongoing lawsuit over the City and County of Honolulu’s many sewage spills from its wastewater distribution and treatment systems. At a June 30 hearing, he did not say outright how he would be ruling, but he did not hold back withering comments on the mess the city now faces.

When James Dragna, a California attorney representing the city, said that the city plans to sign an agreement this month with the federal government that should resolve many of the issues raised in the case, Ezra said, “Several years ago, attorneys for both sides of the Honolulu sewer litigation stood in front of me beaming about having resolved – so they thought – the issues, only to have … sprung a leak.”

The “disastrous deferred maintenance” by the city was “something quite disturbing to this court,” he went on to say. He noted that this was not a criticism of the current administration, but still expressed dismay that fixing the system “is now going to cost taxpayers of this commu- nity multiple millions of dollars.” He added he was also disturbed by “people out there, I’m not saying who” who are placing the blame on the “big bad people at federal court.” Ezra told counsel for all parties to talk to their clients about the rhetoric being disseminated.

“We have a perfect storm going on here. We have these expenses going on here at a time when [we can least afford it]….In terms of priorities, this comes first,” he said, adding that while he was not for or against light rail, “we have a broken sewer system that needs to be repaired.”

Ezra’s ruling will address claims raised in 2004 by plaintiffs (Sierra Club, Hawai‘i Chapter; Hawai‘i’s Thousand Friends; and Our Children’s Earth Foundation) and dismissed by Ezra in 2005 for being “substantially identical” to claims that had been addressed years ago. In a turnabout rare in federal courts, Ezra reinstated those claims earlier this year after plaintiff attorneys William Tam and Christopher Sproul argued that an Environmental Protection Agency-state Department of Health lawsuit against the city over the 2006 Ala Wai canal spill proved that claims could be made against the city for spills after 1994.

Honors: Last month, the Hawai‘i chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists announced its awards for work published in 2007. Environment Hawai‘i was honored in three categories. Teresa Dawson received finalist awards for her stories on the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council and for her column “Board Talk,” which chronicles the actions of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources. Patricia Tummons received a finalist award for her investigative reporting on Venu Pasupuleti, Megasoft, and the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawai‘i Authority.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *