A federal judge on Aug. 30 granted a preliminary injunction to "maintain the status quo" while litigants argue over whether Honolulu's solid waste can be transported to the Northwest and put to rest in a south-central Washington landfill in the Columbia River gorge.
The order from Judge Edward F. Shea of the U.S. District Court's Eastern District of Washington approved a request from conservation groups that wanted garbage shipments be prohibited while litigation plays out. The lawsuit launched last month asks that the U.S. Department of Agriculture be prevented from permitting the handling and transportation of baled Hawaiian garbage to Washington state until the federal agency completes formal consultation with the potentially affected tribes and conducts a more extensive evaluation of the potential environmental impacts.
The order enjoins the defendants, the USDA and its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, from:
-- "authorizing shipments, subject to USDA-APHIS permitting, of Hawaiian garbage to Washington or Oregon ports on the Columbia River and/or to the Roosevelt Landfill including those shipments authorized under any compliance agreements between HWS and USDA-APHIS, or,
-- "permitting, authorizing, allowing, or otherwise granting permission to HWS or any other private trash hauling enterprise to load, ship, transport, or otherwise export Hawaiian garbage from Honolulu to Washington or Oregon ports on the Columbia River and/or to the Roosevelt Landfill."
HWS is Hawaiian Waste Systems, a private company that entered into a compliance agreement early this summer with APHIS allowing HWS to handle and transport up to 150,000 tons of garbage annually from Hawaii to the Roosevelt Landfill in southern Washington's Klickitat County.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Yakama Nation, Friends of Columbia Gorge, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, Columbia Riverkeeper and two individuals.
That compliance agreement was later revoked by APHIS on Aug. 11 in order to allow it to conduct additional analysis pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act. The plaintiffs claim the agreement is in violation of the NHPA, the National Environmental Protection Act and treaty and tribal trust obligations of the federal government.
Judge Shea said that he "finds it likely that Plaintiffs will prevail on their NEPA claims that the EA and FONSI failed to adequately analyze the environmental impacts of shipment and receipt of Hawaiian garbage to the Roosevelt Landfill, which is located on lands ceded by the Yakama Nation, wherein tribal members enjoy 'in common' usufructuary rights, and in close proximity to the Columbia River, in which the environment organization members and individual Plaintiffs enjoy fishing, boating, and swimming." Usufructuary is a technical term in law for a person who has the right to enjoy the products of property he does not own
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that the environmental assessment developed for the proposal and a USDA "finding of no significant impact" were inadequate to judge potential environmental and economic impacts.
Among the concerns of the conservation groups and the Yakama Nation is the potential for the importation destructive invasive species along with the garbage.
An earlier tribal request for a temporary restraining order said that "the area around the Landfill is close enough to timber habitat that if a treeboring insect was introduced, it would have devastating effect on the Yakama Nation's timber management and harvesting activities.
"Similarly devastating effect would result from decimation of riparian trees like black cottonwoods and aspens, which provide cover for watersheds and fish habitat, the tribal brief says. "Any adverse effect on the habitat could harm the game, like deer and grouse, that Yakamas hunt, the salmon and steelhead that Yakamas fish, and the roots and herbs that Yakamas gather for food and medicine."