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Anaergia slow to fulfill contracts with county

Company has landfill, wastewater treatment plant projects pending

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino says that he wants to see something “tangible” from Anaergia, which has county contracts for a waste-to-energy project near the Central Maui Landfill and an electrical energy generation and sludge-drying project at the Kahului wastewater treatment plant.

“As I mentioned during my inauguration speech, we want to see something tangible from Anaergia,” Victorino said in an email Friday afternoon.

The county and community critics of the company have been waiting for progress from Anaergia since the first contract for the waste-to-energy fuel project was signed five years ago.

Under former Mayor Alan Arakawa, the county selected Anaergia to finance, plan, design, permit, construct, own, operate and maintain an integrated waste conversion and energy project on privately owned property near the Central Maui Landfill. The company formed Maui Resource Recovery Facility to handle the project.

According to an agreement on Jan. 8, 2014, the facility was intended to receive and convert waste and landfill gas into fuel, renewable energy or other marketable commodities that would divert a significant portion of waste from the landfill.

And on Feb. 14, 2017, the county also entered into a services agreement for electrical energy generation and sludge drying with Anaergia’s Maui All Natural Alternative for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of a gas turbine system with sludge dryer for the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility, under a power purchase agreement.

The project would have used energy crops grown on former Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. land. In December, HC&S parent company Alexander & Baldwin sold its 41,000 acres of old sugar fields to Mahi Pono. Mahi Pono also purchased Central Maui Feedstocks, A&B’s energy crop project, and assumed all diversified agriculture leases previously entered into by A&B, a news release about the sale said.

Mahi Pono said in an email Friday: “We are still in discussions and have no updates at this time.”

In late 2018, Sierra Club Maui Group and Maui Tomorrow filed a lawsuit challenging the approval of an environmental impact statement for the energy project at the wastewater facility, which has stalled.

As for the Central Maui Landfill project, progress has been slow.

Acting Department of Environmental Management Director Eric Nakagawa said Friday that an amendment to the contract, executed in late 2018 with Arakawa still in office, extended deadlines for permitting, approvals and energy agreements to mid-2020.

As it has done with many of the county’s service contractors, Nakagawa said the department “has been in contact with Anaergia’s representatives throughout the process and has urged the contractor to implement its obligations under the contract.”

On Friday, the Maui County Council referred a resolution to the Economic Development and Budget Committee to authorize the council chairwoman to conduct a fiscal and performance review of the use, management and expenditure of public funds for Anaergia Services LLC-related projects.

The resolution says that the review “would provide an understanding of the progress made in their completion and the anticipated effectiveness of the projects, and a basis for the public and the council to consider whether appropriating additional funds toward the projects is in the best interests of the county.”

Kaala Buenconsejo, business development director for Anaergia, said Friday that “we look forward to discussing both contracts with the council and informing them of the progress being made to fulfill both contracts.”

“We look forward to the opportunity,” said Buenconsejo, the former Maui County parks director under Arakawa.

As the county awaits implementation of the contract, it continues to move ahead with expansion projects at the Central Maui Landfill. Victorino’s proposed budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, includes $12.5 million for a 19-acre expansion and other upgrades.

Nakagawa said that the expansion plans, which have been in the works for several years, are necessary with or without the Anaergia contract.

“The county’s waste management plans are by necessity very long term. It takes many years to acquire land (if necessary), plan, design and permit these types of functions, most of which are state-level permits and approvals,” Nakagawa said.

“Although the county’s request for proposals that resulted in a contract with Anaergia was designed to achieve a significant decrease in waste being land-filled, there would still be waste to be disposed at the end of the processes.”

Other long-range plans for the Central Maui Landfill include providing traditional land-filling space, which the county historically has used when private quarrying of land ends, Nakagawa said.

Other plans include consolidating the county’s environmental protection activities, such as abandoned vehicle storage and processing and emergency response activities.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.

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