EPA again penalizes Pflueger
His lawyer says the government is to blame for the very delays that are the source of the fines
A federal agency has assessed $23,500 in penalties to former auto dealer James Pflueger for failing to comply with a consent decree stemming from damage caused by a 2001 mudslide on his property near Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai.
Pflueger's attorney, Wesley Ching, said his client will challenge the penalties from the Environmental Protection Agency.
As part of a $7.8 million settlement approved in June, Pflueger was to have spent $200,000 to replace cesspools at homes near his Pilaa property with septic tanks. If he chose not to upgrade the homes' sewer systems, the consent decree allowed Pflueger to pay a stipulated penalty of $21,000 in addition to the $200,000, which he did.
However, the EPA said Pflueger missed two deadlines prior to making the payment. One deadline was to submit an inventory of cesspools that needed replacing and the other was to hire a project manager, the EPA said.
Pflueger was unable to meet the deadlines because the government caused delays in the construction schedule, Ching said. Lawyers for the state and federal governments knew about the delays for months and had assured Pflueger that it would amend the schedule accordingly, he said.
Ching said that instead of resolving the issues to allow the work to proceed, the government decided, for its own political agenda, to make the issue a media event.
The state and the EPA delayed approval of the consent decree by several months when they tried to change the agreement after they signed it, Ching said.
Pflueger filed permit applications for the required work six months ago but the county has yet to issue the permits because it cannot decide the size of the required construction bond, he said.
The consent decree addresses the environmental damage from the 2001 Thanksgiving weekend mudslide caused by illegal grading and other construction Pflueger did on his 378-acre property. Mud and storm runoff spilled onto Pilaa beach and the coral reef in Pilaa Bay. The mudslide also damaged a beachfront home.
The settlement includes the $200,000 to replace cesspools, $135,000 to fund a mobile water-testing facility for Kauai residents, a $2 million fine and $5.5 million of remediation and environmental restoration work.
Pflueger was also fined $4 million by the state for environmental damage and $3,075 by Kauai county, and was ordered to pay $500,000 in criminal penalties.