Dairy permits revoked

MAHAULEPU — Developers of a proposed industrial dairy on Kauai will need to jump through a few more hoops before construction can start, due to a final order from Hawaii’s Environmental Court.

Judge Randal Valenciano, in a May 4 ruling, revoked all of the state’s permit approvals for Hawaii Dairy Farms’ planned 557-acre dairy, set to run up to 2,000 cows.

The court also said a final Environmental Impact Statement will be required for any new permits to be approved by the state for HDF’s project.

Amy Hennessey, spokeswoman for HDF, said the order is nothing new, “since it’s the same decision that was rendered a few months ago.” Hennessey added that HDF is disappointed because they believe it creates a precedent for animal agriculture in Hawaii.

“This decision effectively lumps the dairy into the same category as a wastewater treatment plant. It sets a dangerous precedent by potentially forcing all future animal agricultural endeavors that are striving to be more sustainable and environmentally sensitive to produce a costly Environmental Assessment before beginning operations,” Hennessey said.

The court found HDF received approval and broke ground on a wastewater treatment unit before a final EIS was accepted by the state, and that the action wasn’t lawful.

That’s because construction of the wastewater treatment unit triggers HRS Chapter 343, which requires an EIS.

The order stressed that environmental review must be conducted at the earliest time, not while the decision is being made, so decision-makers can be alerted to issues and they have time to make decisions.

“This environmental review has never before been required,” Hennessey said. “As a result, we believe this will further hinder our community’s already limited ability to grow local food and meet the governor’s food production goals.”

Friends of Mahaulepu, the community group fighting the construction of the dairy, considers the order a win.

“After years of this, hearing someone in such a position of authority say the things you’ve been saying, is a good feeling,” said Bridget Hammerquist, president of FOM. “It feels like your work is validated.”

Now, Hammerquist said, all that’s left is to hope that Hawaii Dairy Farms “recognizes that Mahaulepu is not environmentally suited for a large-scale dairy.”

“It needs to be in a place where the hydrology will work and the environment will support it,” she said.

HDF is waiting for additional “clarification and guidance” from regulators before their team continues the work on the second draft EIS, Hennessey said.

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