City of Oahu Hawaii Aims to Block Off-Island Waste Export Plan

The head of a private trash hauler said his company is ready to ship O’ahu’s garbage to Washington state, with or without the approval of the Hannemann administration.

Hawaiian Waste Systems LLC chief executive Jim Hodge said he’s arranged with “more than one” local trash company to take their garbage for a price cheaper than the city’s landfill tipping fee. His company would then bale, shrink-wrap and ship the trash to the Port of Longview, about 40 miles north of Portland, Ore.

“Our facility is up and ready,” Hodge said, insisting that he has done everything necessary to start operations, including investing $10 million for a facility at Campbell Industrial Park. If Hawaiian Waste secures a contract with the city, “we will commit our private system to the city system and it’s always been our intent to do that,” he said.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann and other city officials, however, believe Hawaiian Waste needs city approval to proceed.

A resolution designed to clarify the situation by authorizing a private trash haulerto ship up to 150,000 tons of solid waste out of state “without challenge or other impediment from the city” was deferred 7-1 by the City Council yesterday after strong objections raised by city Environmental Services Director Tim Steinberger.

“Our main concern is this (resolution) does surrender the city’s right to flow control for a period of time,” Steinberger said. “That has financial impacts.”

Lost tipping fees

The city could lose as much as $12 million annually in lost tipping fees, which are generated when private haulers dispose of their garbage with the city, he said. More important, he said, the administration is worried it will lose control over how much trash is being shipped off-island, which could hinder its ability to provide enough solid waste under its contract with the HPOWER waste-to-energy plant.

If Hawaiian Waste moves forward with shipping trash off-island without city approval, “the city would very likely have to pursue legal action with the support of (the) council,” Steinberger said.

Hawaiian Waste was the low bidder for a city contract last year to ship trash off-island but city purchasing officials determined the bid was “non-responsive” to concerns that were raised. Hawaiian Waste’s appeal of that decision was denied by the city. Hodge insists his company did what it was told, and is now appealing the decision to the state Department of Commerce and Community Affairs.

free market

City Council members are split on the resolution to support off-island shipping, a measure introduced by Council Chairman Todd Apo.

Apo said that despite arguing about the potential loss of revenue from tipping fees, the city has neglected to point out that it will need to spend less in disposing the trash on its own.

Councilman Nestor Garcia said he’s worried about the fiscal impacts of shipping trash off-island, not just in terms of tipping fees but the revenues lost from not being able to sell energy that trash might otherwise generate at HPOWER.

But Councilman Charles Djou said he believes in the free market process and that “there’s no reason for the government to step in and interfere” with what Hawaiian Waste is trying to accomplish. Djou accused colleagues of being “addicted” to the revenues generated by tipping fees.

Despite Hodge’s claim that he is able to find private haulers to provide Hawaiian Waste trash, not all local waste companies support its efforts.

Greg Apa, a senior vice president with Honolulu Disposal Services, testified that the economic downturn has resulted in a 20 to 30 percent drop in business. Allowing trash to be shipped off-island is going to make it difficult for his company, the largest private hauler in the state, to maintain contracts and would stifle the momentum of the city’s curbside recycling program, Apa said

Source:  Honolulu Advertiser

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