By NANCY COOK LAUER
Stephens Media Hawaii
Is a waste-to-energy plant a done deal for Hawaii County?
A resolution urging Mayor Billy Kenoi to consider other alternatives comes back before the County Council Waste Management Committee today after being panned by both the Environmental Management Commission and the director of the Department of Environmental Management.
Resolution 123, sponsored by Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille, is a 2 1/4-page document that urges the mayor to explore all solid waste technologies rather than limiting his choice to waste-to-energy. It also stresses a solid waste program that emphasizes waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting. The council committee unanimously agreed with the nonbinding resolution earlier this year before sending it to the commission.
The commission voted unanimously to not agree or disagree with the resolution, which sent it back to the council with a negative recommendation. Commissioner Sherm Warner said the resolution presupposes the best solution without going through an evaluation of alternatives.
“There should be a process,” Warner said at the meeting. “And a resolution that just picks two solutions … I just think it’s wrong to just find conclusions without processes.”
A process is exactly what Wille is after, she said in an interview Monday. The resolution was in response to Kenoi’s public vow to have a waste-to-energy facility “on the ground” before he leaves office in 2016.
Kenoi has said Honolulu’s HPower plant is a good model for his county. HPower uses two refuse-derived-fuel-fired burners, but its newest burner is a mass-burn incinerator, which is cheaper to run than the RDF-fueled ones.
Wille said she’s pushing for a big-picture approach. She said the County Council, as the policy-making body of the county, should be involved early in the process, to give the public a voice and weigh in on a solution.
“Let’s really look at this and look at the alternatives,” Wille said. “Make us part of the conversation and please be sure we’re looking at all the options.”
Wille said she’s asking the administration, “if it’s so urgent, why haven’t we heard from you?”
Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead Todd said the department is unlikely to have representatives at the meeting to answer questions because people are on vacation.
She said her written communication to the council “covers our position on the resolution.”
In her response, stating that the department does not support the resolution, Leithead Todd compared Maui’s experience with its solid waste plan to rebut several of Wille’s contentions. She also refuted the assertion that newer, high-temperature waste-to-energy facilities can exclude green waste and require less feedstock to produce energy.
“Industry experience suggests that technologies that use municipal solid waste as a feedstock are not rapidly evolving and that either mass burn, RDF, gasification or pyrolysis remain the predominant technologies, which are generally coupled with diversion and materials recovery programs,” Leithead Todd said in her response.
The council Environmental Management Committee is scheduled to discuss the issue at 3:30 p.m. today at the West Hawaii Civic Center, with videoconference links available at council chambers in Hilo and the Waimea council office.
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at email@example.com.