Friends of Mahaulepu awarded over $500K

LIHUE — Hawaii Dairy Farms will be coughing up than half a million dollars for attorney fees and court costs, according to a Monday decision by a Hawaii District Court.

In a 71-page order, Judge Kenneth Mansfield awarded $506,328 in attorney fees, expert-witness fees, and costs to Friends of Mahaulepu.

“We welcome the award. It validates that the case we brought had merit,” said Bridget Hammerquist of FOM.

She continued: “Fortunately, Congress recognized that, at times citizens in a community may be forced to file a Clean Water Act violation lawsuit. The award of litigation fees and costs underscores the law’s intent to protect the environment.”

Amy Hennessey, spokeswoman for HDF said the organization is “obviously disappointed in the ruling,” but will abide by the court’s decision.

“At the same time, we remain committed to working toward the goal of increasing local food production,” Hennessey said.

The award followed a consent judgment order entered in May by federal Judge Leslie Kobayashi in a Clean Water Act violation case between HDF and FOM.

The case was filed because HDF began construction of the planned 557-acre dairy without having the necessary permits — specifically a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

In addition to the more than half a million dollars in costs and fees, the courts ordered HDF to pay $125,000 to fund a supplemental environmental project for stream-bank restoration and endangered species protection at Makauwahi Cave Reserve.

That was decided in litigation between parties.

“Rather than spend money in a legal battle, we wanted to directly support the community and address the existing contamination in the area being caused by nearby injection wells,” Hennessey told TGI in June.

Part of the $125,000 will also go toward reforesting adjacent uplands and increasing efforts to manage endangered species on adjacent properties.

Though the Clean Water Act violation case between the two entities has been settled, in June Hennessey said the plan was still to “bring the state’s first pasture-based dairy to fruition.”

Members of FOM still believe HDF and its parent company, Pierre Omidyar’s Ulupono Initiative, LLC, are working behind the scenes to establish the dairy, and they point to recent actions that they say prove it.

However, Hennessey says those actions are evidence of a company invested in its community and in participating in the lawmaking process.

In October, Ulupono Initiative submitted comments to the state’s Environmental Council, which is going through an update of Hawaii Administrative Rules.

The testimony centered around revisions to the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act rules that would require responses to all comments within an environmental impact statement, asking for the ability to consolidate like comments and respond accordingly.

“This change would require extensive and pointless paperwork to respond to potentially hundreds of irrelevant comments, and would expose EISs to legal challenge, delaying projects and increasing expenses with no environmental benefit,” Ulupono representatives stated in their comments.

Hammerquist dubbed this “comment-batching,” and said FOM members think it’s a step toward creating an easier atmosphere for a HDF EIS on Kauai in the future.

Hennessey said Ulupono Initiative has joined the conversation around the update of HAR to “provide, for consideration, feedback that allows the decision-makers to update the rules to improve the process for all parties involved in the developmental process.”

“The proposed changes are much larger than Hawai’i Dairy Farms, especially since they affect our state’s ability to advance projects that will help us improve our community in the most environmentally sustainable way,” Hennessey said.

Hammerquist also points to a December symposium the organization is sponsoring, in cooperation with Civil Beat, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the William S. Richardson School of Law in Honolulu.

The symposium is directed at skill- and strategy-building for working with public participation in projects — especially as “public discourse has become increasingly polarized and hostile,” according to the symposium agenda.

Hammerquist characterized it as a think-tank session to develop legislation that limits public input on development with the contention that the public is unfairly polarized against development.

“Everybody on the panel is either from the law school, there to help write legislation, or they’re Ulupono contractors,” Hammerquist said. “The only two topics are the 30-meter telescope and the dairy on Kauai.”

However, Hennessey said the goal of the conference is to bring parties together from all aspects of the environmental review process to discuss how to better engage the community.

“Hawaii Dairy Farms is merely one of many examples of projects that are involved in the environmental review process, so we were invited to speak about that experience,” she said.

  1. John P November 15, 2017 7:21 am Reply

    So since the law stopped them before now they want to weaken it? And then hold a feel-good PR stunt “conference” on Oahu? They aren’t even having the conference on either of the islands that are effected. That’s because it’s an Oahu-based group that could care less about places like Mahaulepu.

  2. Latearrivelocal November 15, 2017 8:37 am Reply

    Congrats and thank you for your work to protect Kaua’i FOM.

  3. Jason Manawai November 15, 2017 10:58 am Reply

    So HDC was only found guilty of not getting a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit before beginning to build out the dairy. It was not cited for polluting which is thought to be caused by nearby municipal waste water injection wells. Omidyar can easily afford the permit fine which won’t prevent HDC from completing the project. So, Hammerquist and her Friends of Mahaulepu did not succeed in their effort to stop the dairy from being built.

    1. akauaian November 15, 2017 5:27 pm Reply

      Jason Manawai, it appears as though you did not understand the thrust of the article. True, HDF (not HDC, per your mistake twice) was found guilty. And you say Omidyar can afford the “permit fine” — what is that?? In fact, what happened is that Omidyar will have to pay $506, 328 to Friends of Maha’ulepu because he was ordered to do so by a United States Federal Judge. As far as FOM not succeeding in their effort to stop the dairy from being built — I call you attention to the fact that, even though HDF started the process more than 3 years ago, as of right now NO DAIRY HAS BEEN BUILT ON THE SITE. Seems to me, FOM is succeeding every single day that there is no dairy.

  4. Jodella November 15, 2017 12:28 pm Reply

    HDF says they have a “goal of increasing local food production”. What they plan to produce will indeed be produced on Kauai–milk, but then the milk will be shipped off island for processing, then the final product–processed milk–will be shipped back here and sold at usual grocery store prices. No savings for Kauaians. Why don’t they build the processing plant on island too and sell here for a reduced cost? That might be a compelling argument for building the dairy (on some other more appropriate location on island).

  5. Pete Antonson November 15, 2017 2:31 pm Reply

    OMG, the other side didn’t give up!!! They are still working at this!!! I’m outraged!!!
    What stupid, pathetic, narrow little minds think like this?
    At least trump supporters actually have something to resent. The world changed and their mouse got away while they were busy staring at some bright shiny object instead of preparing for the new challenges of the 21st Century.
    These self centered, Poipu NIMBYs, on the other hand, have gotten themselves so worked up, shaking their little pitchforks and torches, they actually believe they will be personally affected by something miles away. If you follow their creative math, the entire island will be a 12 foot manure pile after 5 years. These were stable, reasonable people just a few years ago; now they’re just like trumpeters: “We don’t care if it’s true; hooray for our side!”

  6. Michael James November 16, 2017 11:57 am Reply

    I am a long time south shore redident who loves Mahalepu. FOM is no friend of mine. There is no legal easement for public access to that beach. Case and company (or his kids) will eventually tire of losing money on this land and sellout to a connected developer. I suggest FOM promptly donate all funds back to property owner to be used for road, ditch, and fence maintenance.

  7. Kalapakirocky November 16, 2017 1:18 pm Reply

    I guess I am one of those Poipu self-centered folks if that means we will get to keep clean air, clean drinking water, and a clean ocean free from bovine manure and urine….and oh yes, be able to smell the pure ocean air and not feed lot stench. By the way, the dairy is not “miles away” it is hardly a mile. Put me down as someone who doesn’t see any intrinsic value to Kauai for this debacle. Hats off to FOM and why not put the dairy a mile upwind from Mr. Antonson’s house.

  8. Pam W November 16, 2017 9:05 pm Reply

    A huge congratulations to FOM, a special thanks to Bridget Hammerquist and all of the community members who worked so hard to fight for protecting Mahaulepu and the the island! It took immense work and persistence for this grassroots effort to combat a billionaire’s folly. An industrial dairy with 2,000 cows just upwind from a resort community and the Grand Hyatt, and uphill from the ocean where manure runoff would have further degraded the already polluted stream and ocean in that area, not to mention the drinking wells for the community, is just a horrible and irresponsible concept. I am so impressed how this battle was fought–with methodical expert evidence and facts, not hostility or hyperbole. We have a responsibility to be good stewards of the environment not only for ourselves, but future generations, and all the ocean species who depend on a clean environment. Bridget Hammerquist is such an amazing and dedicated woman, and she is my personal hero. HDF, please find a suitable location for your dairy, or find a productive non-polluting agricultural use for this special land. This beautiful island of Kauai deserves nothing less.

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