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City to pay $875,000 EPA fine, build $16.1 million H-Power project

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  • but near-term plans call for it to be expanded.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell praised a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency that requires the city to pay an $875,000 fine and build a $16.1 million solar-energy project at the H-Power plant in Campbell Industrial Park to settle air violations at the now-shuttered Kapaa Landfill in Kailua.

“We jumped at it,” Caldwell said Tuesday. “We don’t want to send our money somewhere else. We want to keep it here. … We’re paying a little bit of a fine for a lot of benefit.”

The city failed to install and operate a mandatory gas collection and control system to handle methane and hazardous air pollutants from decomposing refuse by a 2002 deadline, the EPA said Tuesday in announcing the settlement.

“Air emissions from a closed landfill are toxic, and can contribute to global warming,” Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Administrator for the Pacific Southwest, said in a statement. “If the proper systems had been in place at the landfill, over 343,000 tons of methane, and 6,800 tons of hazardous air pollutants and volatile organics would not have escaped to the atmosphere.”

The 215-acre landfill began receiving solid waste in 1969 and closed in May 1997. A gas collection and control system at the landfill was not installed until April 2013. 

The gas collection and control system continues to operate and is being monitored, said Lori Kahikina, director of the city’s Department of Environmental Services.

Under the settlement, the city must install photovoltaic arrays on more than 250,000 square feet of buildings and open space at the city’s waste-to-energy H-POWER facility by 2020.

The solar panels will have a capacity of 3.1 megawatts and will generate more than 5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year — the equivalent of powering 800 Oahu households, which the EPA said will lessen Oahu’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The city has budgeted $4 million annually for the project and expects to have it running within three years — long before the 2020 deadline, Kahikina said.

The solar panels will provide half of the energy that H-Power needs to operate and will pay for the $16 million investment within seven years, she said.

“That extra 50 percent is all income,” she said. 

Caldwell said the EPA violations occurred under previous administrations and he praised Kahikina for negotiating a settlement with the EPA just three months after she took over the Department of Environmental Services.

“Instead of shipping millions of dollars to Washington,” Caldwell said, “we actually get to spend those monies. We’re becomeing sustainable with this money. We’re becoming greener.”

In a statement, Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division said, “This settlement holds Honolulu accountable for past failures to collect and control toxic gases and greenhouse gas emissions from the Kapaa Landfill, but it also lays the foundation for better environmental stewardship in the future. Residents who call Oahu home will realize the benefits of this agreement ­ which includes clean solar power production and reduced reliance on fossil fuels — for many years to come.”

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