NEW & NOTEWORTHY: Biogas, Kaua`i Springs, and More

posted in: April 2017 | 0

Kahului Airport Powered by Biogas? The state Department of Transportation is seeking approval to enter into a 20-year contract to purchase biogas from  Maui Resource Recovery Facility, LLC (MRRF), that will be used to provide electrical power to the  Kahului airport.  The proposed value of the contract is nearly $85 million.

The Airports Division of the DOT filed a request for exemption from standard bid procedures with the State Procurement Office on March 15. In explaining why the contract should be approved, it stated that this was the only source of renewable energy able to provide all of the airport’s electricity needs, reducing the airport’s carbon footprint by some 13,000 tons per year.

As outlined in the bid exemption request, MRRF would deliver biogas to a combined heat and power (CHP) facility that MRRF would build at the airport. The per-kilowatt-hour cost is estimated at 28.5 cents initially, with a 2 percent annual escalation over the life of the contract. By contrast, the DOT stated, power purchased from Maui Electric is 29.4 cents per kWh.

MRRF is a subsidiary of Anaergia, a global renewable energy company that has proposed several other projects on Maui. The company’s website states that the MRRF has a target removal rate of 75 percent of the recyclable material. It has had a contract with Maui County to develop the facility since January 8, 2014. Ground has yet to be broken on the MRRF and there has been no environmental assessment or environmental impact assessment done for the project.

The DOT bid exemption request anticipates that the plant will be up and running by January 1, 2019, which is the start date for the contract proposed to the Procurement Office. A company press release published in Waste Management World in January 2014 stated that the MRRF would be “fully operational in 2017.”


Kaua`i Springs Update: For more than a decade, the bottling of water by Kaua`i Springs, Inc., has been the subject of controversy involving, among other things, what agencies should be consulted in the permitting process .

The source of the water is a spring near Koloa on land owned by the EAK Knudsen Trust. It is conveyed by a plantation-era system of tunnels and pipes to a tank owned by the Grove Farm Company, which then distributes it to the Kaua`i Springs facility (described in a filing with the Public Utilities Commission as “two Matson shipping containers, joined by roof and wood decking”) as well as dozens of homes.

Kaua`i Springs ran afoul of the Kaua`i County Planning Commission, which in early 2007 denied it use permits and zoning permits. Among other things, it wanted the company to show that its use of water complied with all applicable laws and regulations of the state’s Public Utilities Commission and Commission on Water Resource Management.

Ultimately, the case wound up before the state Supreme Court, which in February 2014 remanded it to the Planning Commission. Last year, Kaua`i Springs was required to obtain a determination from both the Water Commission and the Public Utilities Commission that its operations do not fall under their jurisdictions.

It filed such a request with the PUC on March 6, which the PUC rejected for technical reasons, asking it to be refiled. On January 17, Jeffrey Pearson, director of the Water Commission, informed Kaua`i Springs that it would not be needing any approvals from that body.

(For background, see articles in the June 2013 and April 2014 editions of Environment Hawai`i.)

Milestone: It is with profound sadness that we note the passing of Paula Dunaway Merwin of Haiku, Maui. For many years, Paula served as a board member of Environment Hawai`i, and long after her service ended, she remained a great friend. We send our condolences to her husband, William, who also was for a time a member of our board; to Paula’s aunt, Joan Packer, of Waikiki, and to her two sons and their families.

Paula was always gracious and generous with her time and talents, witty, and possessed at times of a wicked sense of humor. She was a welcoming hostess and cook and a helpmeet to William.  We miss her.

Department of Red Faces: Our March issue contained a couple of errors. Our cover story mistakenly stated that a workshop at which planners and scientists discussed sea level rise occurred on Kaua`i. It was held in Honolulu. Also, a New & Noteworthy item erroneously stated that certain fishing rules restricting the catch of parrotfish applied to Lana`i and Maui. They only pertain to Maui.

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