PacWest seeking new Biomass Site

SUBHEAD: Community activism effective in pushing back Kekaha Mill site for KIUC power station. By Staff on 24 April 2011 for The Garden Island - ( Image above: The interior of abandoned Kekaha Sugar Mill. Photo by Philip James Filia. From ( Pacific West Energy LLC and Pacific West Energy Kaua‘i LLC told Kekaha community leaders Friday that it will not develop a biomass power facility at the Kekaha sugar mill site, residents said Saturday. Citing strong community opposition to the site as a key factor, PacWest President and CEO William Maloney informed the leadership group that the PacWest board of directors formalized its decision this past week by unanimous agreement. Maloney said in a letter Friday that PacWest intends to move forward by quickly identifying an alternate site for the biomass power facility that is agreeable to the community. He noted that he intends to “work in concert” with E Ola Mau and other community organizations. “KIUC has us on a short timeline with specific milestones and an outside ‘commercial operation date,’ with penalties ranging from monetary damages to a termination of the project altogether,” Maloney said. “This makes it imperative that the site re-location process go smoothly and quickly. As a result, PacWest will be taking the community leaders and the community as a whole up on their pledges of support for our project in front of KIUC.” PacWest, Kekaha MS LLC as the owner of the sugar mill, and various contractors including Kaua‘i Industries LLC, Nuprecon, and Integral Consulting were recently the targets of multiple formal complaints describing improper disturbances of toxic materials and unsafe working conditions at the sugar mill site, according to a news release from Kekaha community leader Jose Bulatao Jr. The complaints were filed with the Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response branch, the Clean Air Branch, and other divisions of the state Department of Health by Kekaha community leaders in late March and early April. The leaders also notified the Environmental Protection Agency of their concerns, the release states. “This is a victorious moment for the Kekaha community,” said Mary Jean Buza-Sims, president of E Ola Mau Na Leo O Kekaha, a community group that first voiced concerns about suspected wide releases of asbestos and other airborne toxins in the site’s surrounding neighborhoods, “We will continue to push for a responsible and accountable clean up of the Kekaha sugar mill and a toxin-free westside.” Maloney said in his letter that the alternative site will not require major industrial operation in a residential area, but which will provide “the economic and community support that a successful agribusiness and renewable energy business offers to the Westside communities.” Community leaders are currently assessing their options in moving forward on their claims, the release states. PacWest’s decision comes in the wake of an April 13 community meeting in Kekaha, facilitated by E Ola Mau, where many Kekaha residents, including members of the local medical community, voiced anger and frustration about the potential of a biomass incinerator being situated in the center of Kekaha, near schools and residences. Kekaha residents and leaders again aired their strong disapproval of biomass as a sustainable energy solution at an April 18 town meeting hosted by KIUC in Waimea, the release states. According to its sustainable energy plan, KIUC has determined that up to 25 percent of the island’s energy needs should be met by burning biomass which would redirect the island’s water and land resources toward growing biomass feedstock, the release states. This contravenes a widely circulated 2009 recommendation of the American Lung Association to the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce that urged lawmakers not to promote the combustion of biomass, the release states. As the letter stated, “Burning biomass could lead to significant increases in emissions of nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide and have severe impacts on the health of children, older adults, and people with lung diseases.” .

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