by Andrew Walden
Waianae Coast residents, upset that all of Oahu is literally "dumping" on them, have been fighting for years to close down Leeward Shore landfills. But, the Honolulu City Council Planning Committee, with the support of many residents on the Waianae Coast, has cast a vote which may very well keep Waimanalo Gulch Landfill open.
The Planning Committee June 3 voted for a proposal which will block expansion of the competing privately owned PVT landfill on Lualualei Naval Road in Nanakuli by designating the site for a public park. The proposal, contained in Resolution 10-114, must be approved by the full Council with the City Budget June 9.
The proposal for the Nanakuli Park was first raised in Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann's State of the City address February 22 after the State Land Use Commission (LUC) denied a City application for a 15-year operating extension at Waimanalo.
Opposition to the proposal came from from PVT owner, Leeward Land Co., and from Senate President Colleen Hanabusa's associate, George Grace III. Leeward's written testimony had earlier caused the Planning Committee to reject the park designation by a 3-2 vote. But after extensive arm-twisting by the Hannemann administration, the members relented, and Planning Committee Chair Ikaika Anderson called the June 3 "emergency meeting" to adopt Resolution 10-114 placing a "Park Symbol" on the 50 acre parcel.
Amazingly, some people actually think Colleen Hanabusa is against all landfills on the Waianae Coast.
Grace purchased dirt hauler Pueo Trucking from Hanabusa's husband, former State Sherriff John Souza, in May, 2009. Pueo does a lot of business with PVT. Without ever being called on the potential conflict of interest, Hanabusa has litigated extensively against PVT's competitor Waimanalo Gulch which is owned by the City of Honolulu and managed by Waste Management Industries. Waimanalo Gulch landfill looks out over Hanabusa’s home in the Koolina development and is opposed by the Koolina Homeowners Association and presumably Koolina developer, and Hanabusa associate, Jeff “$75M tax credit” Stone.
According to KITV, Grace (who was found civilly liable for two stolen trucks confiscated in 1999 from the corporate fleet of his Paradise Lua Company) told the Council:
"How can we afford to build a park? We have parks already that need to be fixed up. We got to pay for rail. We got to pay for city sewers, water, our roads got to be repaved."
PVT's testimony also throws doubt on whether any park will ever be built on the Lualualei site. In a standard negotiating tactic, PVT challenges the City's valuation of $3M for the site claiming instead the site is worth $100M based on its value as a landfill. But PVT also challenges the legality of using funds from the 1% "Clean Water and Natural Lands Fund" which is designated "for land conservation" not for the development of ball fields, parking lots, and restrooms as proposed at the Lualualei site. PVT also points to material problems in building a park on the site such as low rainfall, wildfires, and brackish wells unsuitable for irrigation. These issues may be challenging to a Recreation Department already suffering budget cuts.
"(T)he true purpose of the revision appears more likely to be to shut down the PVT landfill or prevent its expansion, to impose a blight on the site, to require a construction and demolition landfill to be newly developed on less suitable private property elsewhere...."
Why would the Hannemann administration want to do that?
PVT now accepts only construction and demolition debris and charges tipping fees about 33% of those charged at Waimanalo Gulch. PVT's representative, Attorney Bruce Lamon, explains:
"Construction and demolition material accounts for approximately 20% of Oahu’s solid waste stream. H-POWER is unable to accept construction and demolition material. Oahu’s need for a construction and demolition landfill will become even more acute as the development of the rail transit system proceeds. The site is a public necessity for the disposal of construction and demolition material even if the City never again wishes to consider it for municipal solid waste."
This reference to "municipal solid waste" implies that PVT had desired to become a landfill accepting all types of Honolulu waste after any closure of Waimanalo Gulch. This would imply that Hanabusa’s opposition to Waimanalo Gulch was conducted for the benefit of a competitor (PVT) with which her husband had extensive business dealings. Lamon continues:
"The City’s permit from the Land Use Commission for the use of Waimanalo Gulch expires in less than 3 years. Barging trash to the mainland has proven problematic at best and is needlessly expensive. H-POWER reduces the volume of waste but does not eliminate the necessity for landfill disposal."
In last Fall's contested case hearings before the State Land Use Committee, the City sought a 92 acre expansion of Waimanalo and a 15 year extension. As Environment Hawaii November, 2009 explains:
"... in the end, arguments that the city should be held to its repeated promises to close the landfill were pushed aside as commissioners were confronted with the strong possibility that most of the waste that now goes to Waimanalo Gulch, amounting to nearly a hundred tons of waste a day, would have nowhere to go should the city’s current SUP not be renewed or extended past its November 1 expiration date.
"The commission voted 5-3 to approve a new SUP to the city on the condition that Waimanalo Gulch stop receiving municipal solid waste (MSW) on July 31, 2012. Ash and residue from the city’s H-POWER waste-to-energy plant may continue to be landfilled until the gulch reaches capacity.
"The permit allows the city to pursue its planned 92-acre expansion of the landfill, but representatives from the city and landfill operator Waste Management Hawai`i, Inc., were clearly unhappy with the permit’s conditions. And so were those who sought to close the landfill."
With rail-related activity potentially increasing the flow of construction debris, and Hannemann's designed-to-fail garbage shipping contract collapsing, the limit on PVT's ability to expand places tremendous pressure on policy makers to approve an extension of Waimanalo's permit. Even without an extension for municipal solid waste (aka household garbage), when PVT fills up, Waimanalo would have a de-facto monopoly on construction debris and ash from H-Power.
Waimanalo pays between $30M - $50M per year to the City. Keeping Waimanalo open and squelching competition is a money spinner for Honolulu Hale and the government employee unions.
If Waimanalo beats PVT, then Hannemann beats Hanabusa. The unions will have more revenue and construction contractors such as Grace's Pueo Trucking will pay the price in higher tipping fees.