About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ka`u News Briefs July 15, 2011

The Public Utilities Commission has scheduled public hearings on proposed electricity rate hikes connected with
`Aina Koa Pono's biofuels project for Tuesday, Aug. 2 in Hilo and Kona.
THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION has set public hearings for the proposed Young Brothers rate hikes on the same day and time as the hearing on proposed electricity rate hikes connected with `Aina Koa Pono’s proposed $350 million refinery and biofuel farm in Ka`u. The date is Tuesday, Aug. 2. The Young Brothers proposal is to hike interisland ocean shipping rates – some of them could go up by 14 percent and others hiked by as much as 38.7 percent. Young Brothers says it needs the rate hikes to compete with new interisland carrier Pasha Hawai`i Transport. Both hearings start at 9 a.m. at the Hawai`i State Building in Hilo and at 4 p.m. at the West Hawai`i Civic Center. 

THE STATE CONSUMER ADVOCATE has given Hawaiian Electric Co., Inc. until Wednesday, July 27 to answer more questions about its proposed rate hikes that would help pay for the $350 million `Aina Koa Pono refinery planned for land between Pahala and Wood Valley and its biofuel farm planned for land between Pahala and Na`alehu. Consumer Advocate Jeffrey Ono asks that the electric company discuss the current status of all necessary reviews and studies related to permitting and construction of the proposed biofuel facilities, which are planned for seven acres just off Wood Valley Road on Meyer Camp Road.
     He also asks about the impact on Hawai`i Electric Light Co., which operates on O`ahu and Hawaiian Electric Co., which operates on this island, if `Aina Koa Pono should encounter permitting and environmental issues.
     The consumer advocate asks what costs above the cost of fossil fuel the electric company plans to recover by raising electric rates to pay for `Aina Koa Pono’s method of making electricity. 
     The contract between Hawaiian Electric and the `Aina Koa Pono hui calls for `Aina Koa Pono to produce 16 million gallons of biofuel annually to use as a substitute for fossil fuel burned at the electric plant near Kona airport. The Consumer Advocate asks how the electric company and `Aina Koa Pono can calculate a rate increase before they know how much biofuel they are actually able to produce here. “If the companies are not certain of the volume of biodiesel to be purchased, please explain how the companies will be able to insert a known value for the tariff,” states the Consumer Advocate. The proposed action by the PUC would also allow the electric company to have automatic rate increases to help pay for the `Aina Koa Pono fuel, should it be more expensive than fossil fuel.
     The Consumer Advocate also notes that the electric company says in its rate hike application that the biofuel may displace other renewables. “If a renewable energy source is curtailed in order to enable the Companies to meet the commitment to purchase 16 million gallons and the cost of the renewable energy source is already reflected in base rates, the fuel that was replaced was not petroleum but a renewable source.” He asks the electric companies to explain how they would calculate rate hikes when displacing other alternative energies.

COUNTY FURLOUGHS ARE COMING BACK, with a new two-year agreement with the Hawai`i Government Employees Association. The deal brokered by Mayor Billy Kenoi and the union continues a limited county furlough program to save an estimated $2.1 million per year. The agreement, reached this week, calls for HGEA members to accept furloughs of one day per month for the two-year period that began July 1. That equates to a pay reduction of 4.615 percent from pay levels in effect before furloughs first took effect last year. 
     HGEA members accepted two furlough days per month during the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011. According to the mayor, the new, scaled-back furlough program will better serve the public by allowing county facilities to remain open more days this year.
     “This is a fair agreement that reduces costs and prepares us for the uncertainties ahead,” Kenoi said. “It is a part of a larger effort to move the county to more solid financial ground, and to position us for the future.”
     The new agreement with HGEA retains the existing 60-40 employer-employee health insurance premium cost split, the mayor noted.
     “This agreement carefully balances the interests of both the public and public employees,” said Kenoi. “We are asking public workers to pay more each year as health insurance premiums increase, and that burden weighs most heavily on our lowest paid employees. This agreement strikes a fair balance on health care costs.”
     Under the new agreement, the county will impose the first furlough day of the new fiscal year on Friday, July 29. Starting in August, the furlough days will be imposed on the first Friday of each month for the rest of this fiscal year, and will continue in fiscal 2012-13. So expect county offices to be closed the first Friday of the month starting in August, plus the last Friday of this month.

Students help rescue the honu `ea at Punalu`u.
Dr. George Balazs sizes up
the honu `ea.
A 309-POUND HAWKSBILL TURTLE, one of the largest ever recorded, has been rescued from the pond at Punalu`u Black Sand Beach. University of Hawai`i marine sciences students helped pull the giant female honu`ea into the ocean. It is believed it washed into the brackish pond during the March tsunami. The University of Hawai`i released the information yesterday. According to the report, there are only about 100 nesting hawksbills remaining, and the species is critically endangered. The same female hawksbill was seen a few days ago nesting at Kamehame, The Nature Conservancy preserve makai of Pahala. 

BOTTOMFISH SEASON BEGINS Sept 1. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Aquatic Resources, Western Pacific Fishery Management Council and National Marine Fisheries Service will hold free public workshops on new bottomfish fishery rules and regulations.
     Workshops will feature interactive booths with information on the new state annual bottomfish vessel registration and new state commercial bottomfish reporting requirements. There will be information on changes to the bottomfish Deep-7 annual quota from a total allowable catch to an annual catch limit. Information on federal non-commercial bottomfish permit and reporting programs will also be presented. A forum will be conducted by Fishery Management Council staff on options for non-commercial fishery data collection.
     Admission is free. Big Island workshops will be Saturday, July 23 in Kona at King Kamehameha Beach Hotel from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and in Hilo on Monday, July 25 at the University of Hawai`i Kanakaole Building, Room K-127 on Kapiolani Street from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

A TALK ABOUT CONTAINER PLANTS AND HERBS is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Sunday during the Plant and Seed Exchange at Naohulelua Garden on Kamaoa Road this Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. Garden tours will also be available.