Anaergia’s MANA Project Questioned in The Maui News

Original Article at: http://www.mauinews.com/news/local-news/2018/01/sewage-plant-project-would-end-landfill-green-waste-composting/

 

Sewage plant project would end landfill green waste composting

Green waste is dumped off at EKO System's drop-off at the Central Maui Landfill in this photo taken in February 2016. A proposed renewable energy project at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility would put the 23-year-old composting facility out of business, diverting the sewage sludge that is a necessary component in EKO's composing process. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Green waste is dumped off at EKO System’s drop-off at the Central Maui Landfill in this photo taken in February 2016. A proposed renewable energy project at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility would put the 23-year-old composting facility out of business, diverting the sewage sludge that is a necessary component in EKO’s composing process. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

KAHULUI — Maui EKO Systems, which has processed the island’s green waste and county sewage sludge into compost for nearly 23 years, could be put out of business as early as the end of next year because of a proposed renewable energy project at the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility.

The closure stands as one future impact among several other potential problems residents voiced during a community meeting focused on the project led by Maui All Natural Alternative, an Anaergia Services company, on Wednesday at Kahului Elementary School.

“I think we left the meeting with more questions than answers,” Sierra Club Maui coordinator Adriane Raff Corwin said Thursday. “They didn’t give many specifics at all, so we’ll be following up. But I think last night’s meeting illustrated the community has a huge amount of concerns and questions that aren’t being answered.”

Officials with the energy company and county Department of Environmental Management provided a brief presentation and answered questions during their first public meeting on the project. An environmental impact statement is nearly completed, and a final draft is expected later this year.

“No project I’ve ever seen in my 27 years with the county is perfect, but I think this consists of everything we’re looking for,” Environmental Management Department Director Stewart Stant told the crowd of about 40 people.

Stewart Stant

Stewart Stant

The project calls for installation of an anaerobic digester to produce methane gas from energy crops grown on former Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. lands. The natural gas would be refined on-site and fuel a combined heat-and-power engine to generate electricity for the sewage treatment plant.

Waste heat from the plant’s engine would dry biosolids, or digested sewage sludge, produced by the plant. The anaerobic digester would be located on the west side of an existing aerobic blower building.

The treatment plant is next to the ocean on Amala Place in Kahului. The Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary is inland of the sewage treatment plant, and Kanaha Beach Park and Kahului Airport are located to the east.

Anaergia and county officials said the renewable energy project would provide 4.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year and dry the county’s 24,000 tons of biosolids annually. The biosolids would be treated and returned to the county to possibly be used as fertilizer for parks, including the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course.

The energy company would develop the project at no upfront construction cost to the county and charge the county 29 cents kWh as part of a 20-year contract.

Residents and environmental watchdog groups took issue with the charge per kilowatt hour, which is more than double what Maui Electric Co. pays wind farms and for fossil-fuel generated power.

Doug McLeod, vice president of the Maui Tomorrow Foundation, said the price is high because the county advertised the project as “gas turbine to dry sludge,” which solicited just one bid from Anaergia. He added that there seemed to be “a lot of very strange aspects” in the deal that he believed was not the most cost-effective for taxpayers or the safest for the environment.

“When you look at this price 29 cents that is well more than double the current market price for solar power,” McLeod said Thursday. “It would seem to be a lot more than other renewable options, but we don’t know that because the county didn’t ask” for alternatives.

McLeod, who also runs an energy consulting firm and is the former county energy commissioner, said many solar companies did not bother to meet with the county to discuss the project because of the clear restrictive language that favored Anaergia. He believed only Pacific Biodiesel showed interest.

Raff Corwin also questioned why the county did not seek separate solutions for disposing of biosolids and producing energy. She wondered why the treatment plant proposal needed to combine both aspects into one and was concerned about air quality and odors produced by the plant.

“I still haven’t gotten a clear answer as to why these two needs had to be combined,” she said. “It sounds like we’re going to have a huge amount of dry sludge and green waste no longer turned into composting material.”

In 2014, Anaergia, a California-based company, signed a separate 20-year contract with Mayor Alan Arakawa’s administration to build a waste conversion facility at the Central Maui Landfill.

Anaergia and county officials acknowledged that the wastewater treatment plant waste-to-energy project would be related to the landfill project because it would provide dried sludge for the landfill waste conversion project. But they maintained the contracts for the projects were separate.

McLeod said he is skeptical of the landfill waste-conversion facility, which has yet to have an EIS preparation notice published. Anaergia had previously tried to build an energy plant using wastewater in 2015 but was shot down by the Public Utilities Commission.

“These contracts people think they’re free with minimal upfront cost, but they will cost the county money in the end,” McLeod said. “There’s obviously a lost opportunity.”

As for EKO, the company’s current contract with the county ends in June, but the two sides will likely extend until the end of 2019, plant manager Rubens Fonseca said Thursday. The company has 20 workers.

The composting operation was established to extend the life of the landfill by diverting green waste and sludge.

“I hate to see this product that has been offered to landscapers and farmers here almost 23 years going to be gone,” he said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@maui news.com.

Raise Your Voice Against Anaergia/MANA’s Digester Facility

Maui County is contracting w/ Anaergia Services, LLC via its local Maui company MANA, LLC (Maui All Natural Alternatives) to build a waste digester power plant.

BUT TO MAKE IT WORK, ANAERGIA NEEDS TO:

  1.  Get water from A&B to –
  2. Grow sorghum crops on A&B land to –
  3. Harvest the crops to –
  4. Bring the crops to Kahului to –
  5. Put in their not-yet-built $20 million waste digester plant to –
  6. Create biogas to power the Wailuku-Kahului Reclamation Facility (WKWWRF) next to it.

THEN: Anaergia will use the heat from the digester to dry all of Maui’s human sludge (excrement) and make it into fertilizer pellets to sell back to Maui residents. And the plant will  be located in the tsunami evacuation zone.

Sierra Club Maui submitted comments on this project, back in late 2016 when the County Council’s Infrastructure and Environmental Management Committee (IEM) was considering a resolution authorizing a lease to Anaergia for this facility. Then, very quickly, the lease resolution was pinched out of the IEM Committee by Council member Don Couch and Chair Mike White, and brought before the full Council in the last meeting of 2016, where the lease was approved without further discussion. In January 2017, some new council members were sworn into office who likely would have put up a fight against rubber stamping this lease – so the actions in December 2016 ensured the new council members couldn’t stop the project.

Flash forward to January 2018. Anaergia/MANA has submitted a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to the county, which must be approved before the project can move forward, and they are holding a public meeting on Wednesday, January 24th for the public to learn about the project.

We urge Sierra Club Maui members and supporters to attend this meeting and to voice concern with this project.

At first glance, the project might look eco-conscious and economically viable – but when you delve into the details, it becomes very clear this project is, in a nut shell, going to lead to a lot of money spent for little-to-probably no improvement, while getting in the way of real improvement in the county’s usage of renewable energy and fiscal responsibility.

There are more efficient, safer, and CHEAPER ways to power the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility (WKWWRF) with renewable energy, like:

  1. Use solar power and battery storage (there was a much more affordable project planned with Haleakala Solar that was unceremoniously cancelled by the county, after which the Anaergia project was announced)***
  2. Harness biogas from existing compost and trash on the island (Maui currently has no industrial compost heap, food goes into the trash stream)

***The cost of electrical generation for the cancelled solar PV project with Haleakala Solar at WKWWTF would have provided energy at about half the cost of Anaergia’s project. The solar PV project was cancelled by former Dept. of Environmental Management Director Kyle Ginoza after Haleakala Solar had already done $75,000 in design work. At that time, solar energy would have cost about 15.9 cents/kwh for the first year, compared with Anaergia’s 29 cents/kwh. And since then, MECO’s latest Purchase Power Agreement for solar has dropped to 11.7 cents/kwh (with cost of storage factored in, the final price would be higher, but it would still cost much less than 29 cents/kwh).

 

Here are our concerns that we gave to the Council in 2016 and that are still very valid today:

  1. Cost: Initially, Maui County would pay for electricity at a rate close to that of today’s oil-based electricity from MECO, but with a contracted rate increase of 2.2% per year for twenty years. Without a doubt, within five or ten years the county will be kicking itself for committing to such an exorbitant price for electricity as the cost of renewable energy continues to fall (and solar is already well below even the starting price). At face value, the proposal may sound economical because Anaergia and its subsidiary assume the cost of building the power plant. However, there is no reason to consider Anaergia to be a charitable organization. Its calculation of the charges to Maui County are based on recouping the $20M construction costs, costs for permitting, costs for running the plant for 20 years (including energy crops), and profits. Rather than a great deal, this can be considered a loan at very high interest to the county. If the project made sense for other reasons, it would be more cost-efficient to issue a bond or seek grants and finance it without contracting Anaergia.
  2. Location: There was agreement at a 2016 hearing, including by Director Stewart Stant, that the location which would host the power plant, being at sea level and in a tsunami zone, is a poor choice. The county has been thinking about moving the WKWRF inland. Director Stant said it is more urgent to move the Wailuku Pumping Station, which supplies waste to WKWRF (Wailuku Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility), than to move WKWRF itself. However, one does not exclude the other. Adding a power plant to the existing WKWRF means, 1) it will be much more difficult to move WKWRF, and 2) it canʻt be moved until 20 years after the power plant is online (which itself is likely years away).
  3. Green Waste Disposal Costs: Currently, EKO collects and combines green waste with sludge to produce compost, which it then sells. Removing the lucrative sludge element from the county’s contract with EKO may cause EKO to terminate its remaining green waste contract, as green waste alone has very little resale value. The county would need to contract with a new entity that will collect only green waste; this entity will likely charge a much higher rate per ton because the new entity will need to apply for permits, as well as provide its own location and industrial equipment because EKO’s current location may become a landfill site; with the resale value of green waste so low, the entity will need to charge sky high prices to make a profit. We urge you to pay close attention to the timeline of when EKO’s contract may terminate and when the county could feasibly have a replacement green waste collection entity online. By state law, green waste is not allowed in the landfill, so the county cannot throw away green waste while waiting for a new composting program to come online. [In news articles like this one, county officials claims that the MANA project will bring down costs, but they always fail to mention that the reason why EKO costs are high is because the county wouldn’t give EKO a contract that would last more than 2 years.]
  4. Alternatives: Director Stant said that the reason for proposing the electricity generating plant for the WKWRF instead of the Kihei Wastewater Reclamation Facility is that the Kihei facility already has an excess of solar power during the day but has no way to store the power for use in the evening and at night. A much more cost-efficient investment would be to add battery storage to the Kihei facility. Combining solar and storage at Kihei could be a pilot project which could then be replicated at the other facilities.
  5. Community input: County’s Corporation Counsel said there is no room for public input during contract negotiation for services (which she said is 95% done). However, collecting public information and input only after a contract is finalized is an expensive and cumbersome model which generally leads to community dissatisfaction.

 

These were our concerns regarding the Environmental Impact Statement Preparation Notice, which are still very relevant for the Draft EIS:

  1. Conflict of Interest: Currently, the county is both the proposing agency and the accepting agency, which is a clear conflict of interest. Because the project will be built on state-owned land, we ask that a state agency be the accepting agency. This will resolve this conflict of interest.
  2. Third Party Consultation: We are concerned that this project’s FEIS has not been outsourced to a non-partial third party consultant. If MANA researches and writes its own FEIS, it is very unlikely that potentially serious concerns will be highlighted and examined and that feasible alternatives will be given fair consideration.
  3. Local knowledge: We are concerned that because no local expert consultants have been hired to assess all potential environmental and cultural impacts (especially on the local bird populations in the Kanahā Wildlife Sanctuary) that the FEIS will be severely lacking in important local expertise. We would like to see local avian experts brought on board to analyze this project.
  4. Tsunami Zone: We are very worried about not only placing more expensive long-term infrastructure in the tsunami zone but also the effects it may have on the environment if a tsunami or extreme flooding event happens. If a catastrophe occurs, how will MANA mitigate the risk of waste, flammable gas, and other toxic emissions escaping from the facility into the surrounding industrial and residential areas?
  5. MECO: How will the county negotiate with MECO to take the WKWWRF off its grid? What might be the exit costs of taking the facility off the grid?
  6. Energy Analysis: For the “Identification of Alternatives,” we would like independent energy and waste consultants who have no connection to MANA to create a more robust list of potential alternatives and analysis of their pros and cons.
  7. Carbon and methane footprint: While the facility will create energy from renewable resources, we have doubts as to whether it will actually reduce our carbon and methane footprint. We would like the FEIS to contain a complete analysis of the full carbon and methane footprint of the facility, as well as a listing of any VOC emissions that may occur.

Sand Mining Moratorium Passed! But the Fight Continues…

After more than seven months of discussion, on January 5, 2018, the Maui County Council passed the Sand Mining Moratorium into law, the final vote 7 – 2 (Yuki Lei Sugimura and Riki Hokama were the no votes).

But the bill provides exemption from the moratorium to anyone with an already existing permit. In Nov. 2017, the Dept. of Public Works RENEWED Maui Lani Partners’ permit for work in their Phase 9 site – even though a judge issued a preliminary injunction against all work in that area, stating “…disturbance of burial sites will produce substantial, irreparable harm.”

Maui Lani Partners has been stopped from working by a Maui court of law but our own county government rubber stamped their request to continue – without talking to the State Historic Presentation Division either. This is just one glaring incident that shows how our permit system is broken and needs to be rectified immediately. Because of the Dept. of Public Work’s actions, Maui Lani’s Phase 9 site will be exempt from the sand mining moratorium – unless the county rescinds it.

On Friday the 5th, before the council voted, Mālama Kakanilua and Sierra Club Maui held a protest outside the County building to call on the County to rescind their renewal of Maui Lani’s permit.

News Coverage

Hawai’i News Now Reporter Mahealani Richardson did a video story on the passage of the moratorium, and the Maui News and Maui Now published articles:

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/37204692/maui-council-passes-6-month-sand-mining-moratorium

http://www.mauinews.com/news/local-news/2018/01/council-oks-sand-mining-moratorium/

http://mauinow.com/2018/01/19/mayor-signs-maui-sand-mining-bill/

 

Photos from the Protest

 

Sierra Club Maui Pizza Fundraiser on the 19th!

 

COME TO OUR FLATBREAD PIZZA FUNDRAISER TUESDAY, DEC. THE 19TH!

Help us reach our end of year fundraising goal – come buy some pizza at Flatbread Company, Maui in Pa’ia between 4-10 pm, and we’ll get a portion of every sale – take out or eat in!
We’ll also have a great silent auction with items from Historic Iao Theater Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui Grand Wailea, A Waldorf Astoria Resort and more! Come get some last minute holiday gifts…

Mahalo for your support!

#OxybenzoneFreeMaui Bill Passed 1st Reading

Update: The #OxybenzoneFreeMaui bill has passed first reading!

On Friday, December 1st, 2017, the Maui County Council listened to testimony for about 10 hours on multiple issues, including the oxybenzone bill, the sand mining bill (both up for 1st reading), and a new legislative item introduced by Council Chair Mike White regarding giving council members the ability to fire another council member’s executive assistant with a simple majority vote. The meeting was scheduled to reconvene on Monday so Council could begin to discuss and vote on the lengthy amount of items on the agenda.

On Monday, December 4th, the Maui County Council discussed the sunscreen bill for almost 2 hours. Some council members voiced that they would not vote for the bill unless the County’s corporation counsel (county lawyers) approved of the bill. Currently, Corp. Counsel refuses to sign off on the legality of the bill, but from watching the proceedings it is still not clear why.

The council members finally agreed that they would pass the bill on 1st reading but that before 2nd reading happens, they will hold a special meeting on the science and legality of the bill and allow both sides of the oxybenzone argument (likely, non-profit scientists and the cosmetics industry) explain their arguments for or against the bill. The rationale behind this is that this special meeting may make Corp. Council more comfortable approving of the bill. The Council then voted 9-0 in support of the bill’s first reading.

Every bill must be passed by a majority of council 2 times before it becomes law – 2nd reading will likely happen by March 2018, but hopefully much sooner. We’re on the way to success – 1 more vote and we could be the first in the world to prohibit the sale and use of oxybenzone!

Stay tuned for more updates in the coming months on how you can support this landmark legislation.

#mauinokaoi #reefs #maui #coral #savethereef #protectthereef

Testify for #OxybenzoneFreeMaui!

This testimony action has now ended.

 

Maui County could be the first in the world to pass legislation phasing out the sale and use of oxybenzone and octinoxate-based sunscreens!

Oxybenzone and octinoxate, two of the most common active ingredients in chemical sunscreens, are scientifically proven coral killers. We need to do everything we can to protect our reefs and the organisms that live off them. In December 2017, Maui County’s Council will vote on a bill that, if passed, will prohibit the use and sale of SPF products with these ingredients. To our knowledge, this would be the first legislation world-wide to legally phase out these chemicals.

Show your support for an #OxybenzoneFreeMaui:

Click on the link to send a letter to Maui’s legislators asking them to pass this bill, and SHARE WITH FRIENDS – https://mauisierraclub.org/campaigns/sunscreen/

East Maui Streams Update: BLNR Did it AGAIN

Today, November 9, 2017, the State’s Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) voted 5-0 to once again renew Alexander & Baldwin and East Maui Irrigation, Co.ʻs 1 year revocable permits for 2018, which allow them to take up to 80 million gallons of water a day from East Mauiʻs streams. The five members present were Keone Downing, Stan Roehrig, Thomas Oi, Suzanne Case, and Chris Yuen.

The Land Board virtually ignored the testimony of dozens of people who gave reason after reason for why these leases should not be renewed, including that A&B has shown no immediate need for access to this water. While Member Roehrig voiced that the water take should be limited to 50 mgd, the rest of the members ignored this. They did add 2 new conditions to the permit: requirement of clean up of debris around the stream diversions and that the permits must be made consistent with the Interim Instream Flow Standard (IIFS), which is currently being deliberated on and will be set by the Stateʻs Commission on Water Resources Management.

A&B has not provided the information necessary to justify authorizing a draw of 80 million gallons of water from the public. That water belongs in the streams. When actual farm plans are developed, new petitions for water that include actual data can be applied for from the Water Commission. Until then, the water belongs in the streams.

This is disappointing news, but WE WILL NOT GIVE UP. A&B does not have a right to East Maui’s streams, and we will keep fighting to change this.

 

 

 

Article in Civil Beat on the decision, featuring interview with Sierra Club Maui Executive Committee member Lucienne De Naie

http://www.civilbeat.org/2017/11/land-board-alexander-baldwin-can-keep-diverting-maui-water/