BOISE -- A citizens' group in Boise says they will file a lawsuit, possibly as early as next week, seeking to stop the construction of a waste-to-energy facility at the Ada County Landfill.
They believe the proposed gasification plant is an environmental threat, and that laws have been broken to make the contract to build it. The maker of the plant, Dynamis, says the plant is safe, and the planning process was completely legal.
"We think this presents an imminent threat to the communities all around the landfill," said Andrew Schoppe, the lawyer for Idaho Citizens for a Safe Environment and Transparent Government. He said he wants an injunction to stop the construction of the gasifier (while no ground has been broken, fabrication of the facility is underway).
"One of the things that is really motivating my clients, and me personally, is the appearance of abuse of process that's taking place to get the project this far along," says Schoppe.
He claims Dynamis got an unfair advantage from Ada County Commissioners in the timing of the bid process, and that a contract was signed before many companies had time to submit their proposals. Dynamis CEO Lloyd Mahaffey said they had no advantage, claiming that they were even the second company to put in their project bid.
Schoppe also said secret meetings were held between commissioners and Dynamis executives.
"I think it's something that's done deliberately to avoid having a quorum," Schoppe said.
"That's complete nonsense," said Mahaffey. "All of our meetings with commissioners were requested formally. They're well-documented."
Many of Dynamis' meetings are well-documented. But the question is over the more informal gatherings, and whether a judge believes those would fall under Idaho's Open Meeting laws.
Schoppe also has environmental concerns. The facility's air permit is under consideration by the DEQ. But Schoppe doesn't believe their process has enough teeth, since he doesn't believe the DEQ investigates these proposals.
"The DEQ will issue a permit if the applicant proposes to follow the law," said Schoppe.
While it might not be a full-blown investigation, the DEQ does verify the vailidity of proposed emissions and models.
"The DEQ and EPA are not going to let us build a plant unless we can comply with everything," said Mahaffey. "So we think that this is good for the community. We think we're a company of high integrity, and we're hopeful that we get a chance to build this plant."
Schoppe's lawsuit also calls attention to engineers listed on the original contract with Ada County that has since been adjusted. Chas Ariss said he didn't know he was even listed, and Roger Kolb isn't licensed in Idaho. Mahaffey said they decided not to use Ariss, and Kolb works at Dynamis, which is licensed. This is currently all under investigation by the Idaho Board of Professional Engineers.
The Bannock County Prosecutor is also investigating the contract between Ada County and Dynamis, which commissioners say they fully welcome.