Some overdue diligence on the Dynamis project

Here's a draft of our Wednesday editorial:

Let’s hear it for the state Department of Environmental Quality and the city of Meridian.

And a big round of applause, please, for David Case, the newbie on the Ada County Commission.
DEQ and Meridian City Hall are asking serious questions about the proposed Dynamis waste-to-energy project at the Ada County landfill.

Case, meanwhile, is trying to breathe some much-needed transparency into the process — publicly calling out his colleagues, Sharon Ullman and Rick Yzaguirre, and their pell-mell, secretive rush for this project.

After being told by commissioners and company officials — with scarce detail and scant evidence — why this project is such a can’t-miss proposition, this isn’t due diligence. It’s overdue diligence.

The DEQ seems particularly well-positioned to slow down the project. The agency is reviewing Dynamis’ request for a state air quality permit. How important is this document? Dynamis — which has been in a self-imposed lockdown for weeks — says it will agree to respond to public inquiries only after DEQ completes its permitting process. (Call this the “trust us” approach to public relations.)

From the looks of it, Dynamis could be maintaining its sphinxlike silence for a while. DEQ had been scheduled to issue a draft permit last week, but the agency will now take several more weeks to review the company’s data.

Dynamis is on a deadline. Ultimately, the company is supposed to being selling electricity to Idaho Power by February 2014, and its $75 million plant could take about 15 months to construct. But the DEQ’s responsibility is simple: making sure a plant can super-heat 408 tons of trash daily, without compromising air quality. That’s too important a question to answer in a rush.

Meridian, meanwhile, says the county’s rush to approve the Dynamis plant may run counter to state law. Idaho code requires a feasibility study — and a 90-day public comment period — before a solid waste processing facility can be approved. This process would, again, jeopardize the Dynamis timetable — which isn’t Meridian City Hall’s problem, either.

“It is our opinion that the county is proceeding at great peril and risk to all of our county residents,” Mayor Tammy de Weerd said in a letter last week.

Her warnings may fall on deaf ears — at least where Ullman and Yzaguirre are concerned. Not so, perhaps, with Case, who defeated Ullman in the May Republican primary and was appointed to fill a vacancy on the commission later that month.

On Tuesday, Case stepped up his opposition to the project — and his colleagues’ single-minded push on Dynamis’ behalf. Case sided with County Engineer Jim Farrens, who asked the county to hire a consultant with the background to review the project’s health and safety impacts. That request has gone unheeded.

“It appears (Ullman and Yzaguirre) chose to push this project through at all costs to the health and safety of our community,” Case said Tuesday. “I cannot sit idly by and ignore the continued lack of transparency and behind-the-scene deals. I will not be an accessory to their actions.”

Yes, peer review would take time, time Dynamis doesn’t appear to have. Too bad.

There’s a recurring theme here; let’s be clear about it. It isn’t the job of government officials to cut corners, greasing the skids for a dubious project. It’s their job to adhere to the laws and follow the proper process, time-consuming as this might be. Fortunately, the public has some public officials working on their side.

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Great Editorial Kevin

You did a fine job on this story.