HILO — A Hilo bed-and-breakfast owner is suing the county’s Planning Department and Windward Planning Commission, seeking an environmental review of the Hu Honua biomass power plant under construction in Pepeekeo.
The civil suit, filed by Claudia Rohr on Nov. 27 in Hilo Circuit Court, also requests construction of the 30-megawatt power plant be halted until an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment has been completed.
Hu Honua Bioenergy and its parent company, Island BioEnergy, are not named as defendants.
In the suit, Rohr alleges the project’s primary discharge structure for industrial storm water into the ocean is in a “current condition of disrepair … does not fulfill its intended purpose of settling out sediment from storm water, and it obviously needs alterations, repairs” and the location of the structure “is entirely within the shoreline area,” which necessitates an EIS or EA under the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act.
“I’ve been asking the planning commission and the Planning Department to have Hu Honua do an EA since 2010. … I use the area for recreation — hiking, fishing, Sunday drives,” Rohr said Tuesday. “I’m not trying to say they can’t do their project. … I just said they have to disclose what they’re doing and they have to get their proper approvals. … I’m trying to narrow it to one thing: Environmental review has been triggered.”
Deputy Planning Director Daryn Arai said the county has been served with the lawsuit.
Arai said Hu Honua, which is modifying the former Hilo Coast Processing Co. power plant, is operating under a Special Management Area use permit originally issued in 1985 to HCPC and modified in 2011. He said the county has “relied on the representations” of project engineers that the scope and location of the work performed under the permit doesn’t meet any of the triggers requiring an environmental review, so neither an EIS nor EA have been done.
Island BioEnergy President Harold Robinson didn’t return a call seeking comment by press time.
The suit claims a June 30 field inspection by the state Department of Health’s Clean Water Branch found the discharge structure “is dysfunctional, in disrepair, and not draining correctly to settle out sediment … and that there is sediment in the concrete flume which would be discharged during the next storm event.”
DOH spokeswoman Anna Koethe confirmed in an email Thursday the Clean Water Branch conducted a routine compliance inspection at Hu Honua on June 30.
“However, at no time did we make conclusions of dysfunction, although we do have concerns about the facility’s aging discharge structures,” Koethe wrote. “It should also be noted that neither the facility nor construction activities were underway at the time of the inspection.
“… As is common during inspections, there were findings of non-compliance. … DOH’s Clean Water Branch did issue a field citation, which are commonly used to address non-major types of non-compliance. Findings made during the inspection included using out-of-date pollution control plans that needed to be updated, and having a sediment basin that required maintenance. Since the issuance of the field citation, representatives of Hu Honua have worked to address the findings detailed in the inspection report.”
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