|Meyer Camp Road between Pahala and Wood Valley, where `Aina Koa Pono proposes to build their more than ten-acre biofuel refinery. Photo by Julia Neal|
The flyer says AKP will harvest, pelletize and microwave local biomass - grasses and woody plant parts. It says the company will protect the soil, stating, “Hawaiian native or recommended Hawaiian pasture mixes of grasses and legumes identified by Natural Resource Conservation Service will be incorporated as needed using a no-till method to protect soil structure and moisture.”
The AKP flyer also states that the synthetic diesel will be stored at the refinery until being trucked to Kona or Hilo. It states that the expected tons of biochar a day, a byproduct of the microwave process, would be cooled, bulk bagged and shipped to contracted buyers.
TESTIMONY OF CONCERN about the proposed refinery and biofuel farm was recently submitted to the Public Utilities Commission by Chris Manfredi, of Ka`u Farm and Ranch, which owns approximately 6,000 acres in Ka`u. The letter says Ka`u Farm & Ranch leases land to more than 40 ranch and farming families.
Manfredi writes that the microwave depolymerization technology AKP intends to use is unproven at the scale described in its application. Before asking ratepayers to subsidize the project with surcharges, the plant should be required to demonstrate the plausibility of their plans, he says.
Manfredi claims that AKP has no actual agricultural plan as the feedstocks have not been clearly defined, and their claims that their biofuel crops would not need water is contradictory since recently planted test plots require water. The water issue should be addressed since Ka`u is known for is periodic droughts, states Manfredi.
He also states the that PUC’s approval of the application would lead to a layering of biofuel surcharges and increased costs of energy to ratepayers as the electric company has stated that its Ka`u project would be the first of many biofuel contracts in consideration. Hawai`i should pursue proven technologies that lead to reduced cost of energy, states Manfredi.
He also claims that the biofuel project could threaten biodiversity and food production as much of the land is currently used for cattle grazing. He also states that the biofuel farm could lead to the introduction of invasive species and damage Ka`u’s diversified economy, as monocropping leads to unpredictable boom and bust cycles.
While Manfredi said he was testifying for himself and his company, he is president of the Ka`u Farm Bureau, vice president of the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce and serves on many other boards and committees in the community.
EKE NUI NURSERY OWNER Marla Hunter, of Kalae, wrote to PUC chair Mina Morita and state Consumer Advocate Jeffrey Ono. She noted that the fuel would not be for Ka`u residents. “ How do we benefit from this technology in the form of energy use? She asked. “It is suited for ships and jet planes for the military,” she contended.
She also called for an EIS, saying, “We have potential unknown threats to our water supply.” She asked: “If the crop chosen for fuel production needs more water than naturally occurs through rainfall, will the customers of Ka`u go without water while `Aina Koa Pono uses the water to irrigate their crops? We just need to have more answers from a scientific perspective.”
Hunter also stated that “the movement of this fuel along our highways is a source of added risk for us all. If we are going to be subjected to this risk and the added traffic and emissions from these large trucks on this tiny highway, an EIS needs to be conducted to show us, where, if any weaknesses exist in this plan.
“What is the best for the children of our community,” asked the nursery owner.
A public meeting in Ka`u, the first by `Aina Koa Pono since February, will be held on Monday, Sept. 19 at Pahala Community Center at 6 p.m.
|Hawai`i County Fire Chief|
THE OCEAN VIEW FOOD BASKET is this Tuesday, August 30, from noon to 2:30 p.m. at the Ocean View Community Center. Call 939-7000 for more information.
The slated completion date is Sept. 30, but solutions may require a delay of the opening, Pavao said.