POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jul 30, 2010
A federal judge's order has delayed shipment of Oahu's municipal trash to a landfill in Washington state for at least a month.
U.S. District Judge Edward Shea in Spokane, Wash., granted a temporary restraining order yesterday to halt the shipments, pending a hearing on a preliminary injunction on Aug. 30.
Shea said there were serious questions about whether the U.S. Department of Agriculture adequately assessed the environmental impacts of container shipments through Hawaiian Waste Systems LLC. The lawsuit was brought by the Yakama Nation, environmental groups and Washington state residents, arguing that an environmental impact statement should be prepared for the project.
The tribal council said the department also failed to meaningfully consult with it, as required under a treaty with the federal government.
The city, awaiting the completion of a waste-to-energy expansion, entered into an agreement in September with Hawaiian Waste Systems to ship up to 100,000 tons of municipal solid waste off-island.
Hawaiian Waste Systems President Michael Chutz said he was disappointed with the judge's ruling.
"It certainly will make us step back and assess all our options," Chutz said.
Chutz said his business has done everything in its power to receive government approvals and that the latest development was beyond its control.
"It's a difficult situation. ... We're just a small company that has to sit and wait," he said.
Chutz said the process of plastic baling to prevent contamination and introduction of invasive species has been used in Europe.
He said several inspections to ensure the integrity of the bales will be conducted, from Campbell Industrial Park in West Oahu to their final destination at the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Washington state.
Thomas O. Rice, first assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, declined comment.
Yakama Nation attorney Julio Carranza said the Aug. 30 hearing on a preliminary injunction will determine whether the order halting shipments should stay in effect during the duration of the lawsuit.
Carranza said the department should have consulted with the Yakama Nation about the project, including its effect on archaeological sites.
Yakama Nation officials allege the activity at the landfill is located on lands where it has rights to fishing, hunting, gathering and other customary practices.
Other groups filing the lawsuit include Friends of the Columbia Gorge, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Columbia Riverkeeper and Washington state residents Dawn Stover and Daniel Lichtenwald.