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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ka`u News Briefs Oct. 30, 2012

Mayor Billy Kenoi listed displacement of cattle operations to grow biomass crops as one reason why he opposes the `Aina Koa Pono biofuels project.
TESTIMONY FROM ABOUT 30 HAWAI`I ISLAND RESIDENTS before the Public Utilities Commission in Hilo last night overwhelmingly opposed a 20-year, fixed rate contract between `Aina Koa Pono and Hawai`i Electric Light Co. Most speakers focused on the proposed hike in electric bills that would support a refinery near Wood Valley Road to produce diesel that would be trucked to Kona to a power plant. Most Ka`u residents testified on land use, lifestyle and the emerging small business economy.
Guy Enriques
      The only Ka`u resident who supported the AKP proposal was Guy Enriques, of Punalu`u, a former County Council member, volleyball coach and founder of community group `O Ka`u Kakou. OKK is an organization with which `Aina Koa Pono representatives have met to explain its plan to hand out $250,000 per year in a community benefits package after their refinery is up and running. Enriques said he was speaking “on behalf of `Aina Koa Pono” and that he recently visited their experimental microwave depolymerization unit in North Carolina. AKP plans to bring such a unit to a site along Wood Valley Road. He said it looked like the Micro Dee unit would work. He said he sees the proposed electric bill increase in the `Aina Koa Pono contract as “an investment in the future” since fossil fuel prices are predicted to continue to rise.
      Enriques said this morning that he has wanted to visit a working microwave unit prior to AKP bringing one to the Big Island. During an `Aina Koa Pono meeting in Pahala last year, he volunteered to visit any place where a microwave depolymerization unit is in operation. Other community members also asked where such an operation could be visited anywhere in the world. `Aina Koa Pono recently contacted Enriques and sponsored his trip to North Carolina, he said. According to Enriques, the Micro Dee unit was not in full production, and feedstock, including garbage, was being made into pellets through a separate microwave process. Pellets were going into the Micro Dee, and diesel was dripping out the end, he said.
James Cuddihy
      John Cross is a land manager for Olson Trust, owner of 8,000 acres between Wood Valley and Na`alehu which AKP says it has leased for 35 years for its refinery, for cutting trees and brush, and for growing biofuel crops. He testified that he does not want to see electric bills go up. However, he pointed to test crops for biofuel feedstock on plots along Wood Valley Road. He talked about his experience growing sugar cane and said he hopes the plan will work to reduce Hawai`i’s dependency on fossil fuel.
      James Cuddihy, Jr., a former mill superintendent who left the state when the Ka`u sugar company shut down in 1996, has been working for more than a year with AKP to gain community support. His wife Geri has been meeting privately with small groups of Pahala residents. They both testified in favor of AKP last night, with James Cuddihy describing the old sugar town as degraded and in need of the kind of economic development that AKP promises.
Bobby Gomes 
      In support of AKP stimulating new business in Pahala, Geri Cuddihy testified to the lack of a restaurant. (A California man bought the former Tex Drive-In. The restaurant went bankrupt and is now being considered for a Long’s drugstore). Sobbing and testifying to the jobs AKP promises, she brought up suicides in the community, listing them one-by-one, down to the details of a self-inflicted shooting and a hanging, inferring that such tragedies have something to do with the sugar company going out of business 16 years ago.
      Retired police officer Bobby Gomes objected. He said, “I can cry, too,” and that the people of Ka`u are doing fine and are happy. He and others testifiers pointed to the emergence of small businesses to replace the plantation, including the dozens of Ka`u Coffee growers who are winning international awards and ranchers producing meat for the local market. Testifiers described Ka`u residents as independent, strong and different than other communities around Hawai`i with their hunting, fishing, ranching and farming.
Ron Self
      Many talked about the question of whether to use good farmlands in Ka`u for biofuel crops or for food production. However, Steve Shropshire, a land developer and farmer north of Hilo, noted an abundance of unused farmland around the island.
      Regarding the proposed electric bill hikes, Wood Valley attorney and farmer Ron Self said, “What is really important is that they are trying to finance (the refinery and biofuel farm) on the backs of the ratepayers.” State Sen. Lorraine Inouye also opposed the AKP proposal based on proposed electric rate hikes, as did geothermal proponent and farmer Richard Ha, Shipman Industrial park president Bill Walters, and attorney and geothermal proponent Mililani Trask and others. “HELCO has come to expect that, whenever they ask for an increase, they’re going to get it automatically rubber-stamped,” Trask said.
Sen. Lorraine Inouye
      “Moani Keala Akaka said, “Look at the highway robbery HELCO and others have been getting away with.”
      Several testifiers noted that the hearing was not being held in Ka`u, making it difficult for residents of the area to give their opinions. 
      See more in tomorrow’s Ka`u News Briefs. Another public meeting takes place tonight at 6 p.m. at Kealakehe High School Cafeteria in Kona.
     The deadline to submit public testimony to the PUC is Nov. 30. Letters can be emailed to hawaii.puc@hawaii.gov. or mailed to 465 South King Street, #103, Honolulu, HI  96813.

MAYOR BILLY KENOI opposed the `Aina Koa Pono biofuel project for Ka`u yesterday, saying, “Ultimately, there is no benefit to the people of the Island of Hawai`i.” His comments came from an interview with West Hawai`i Today reporter Erin Miller. Kenoi told her: “This looks like one of those deals, after 10, 20 years, we ask how did we let that happen?” Kenoi talked about the county’s concern with the proposed hike in electric bills and the impact on residents who could face not only higher bills at home and work but higher county water bills connected to the cost of using electricity to run pumps and other water department facilities. Residents could also end up with higher property taxes to pay for higher electric bills for other county operations. The mayor said earlier that the electric bill for the county was going from $30 million to $40 million a year.
       Kenoi told West Hawai`i Today that the fixed price of the biodiesel that HELCO would purchase from `Aina Koa Pono could be $200 a barrel, twice the going rate. The exact amount, however, is unknown, as neither `Aina Koa Pono nor HELCO are willing to release the price to the public. The mayor told the reporter that the reasoning for the fixed cost is based on projections that oil costs will skyrocket. “But on an island that now has, according to HELCO’s own figures, 49 percent of its energy coming from renewable sources anyway, Kenoi said the county can no longer afford to pursue energy technologies that don’t drop electricity rates,” reports West Hawai`i Today.
Richard Lim
      “Clearly, we’re not against new technology, against innovation. With this proposal, there’s very little in it to encourage the County of Hawai`i, the residents to support it,” the mayor told West Hawai`i Today.
      According to the story, “Kenoi also questioned using Ka`u as a test site for microwave catalytic depolymerization technology, which `Aina Koa Pono proposes using, noting the technology has never been used in production-scale operations. Other concerns include displacing cattle operations from about 10,000 acres in Ka`u to grow the biomass crop to be turned into biodiesel and that `Aina Koa Pono has not yet specified which crop it will use for the project,” the story says.
      The story also points out the `Aina Koa Pono connection with Richard Lim, the director of the state Department of Business and Economic Development, which is also a participant in the case before the PUC. Lim is a co-founder of Sennet Capital with `Aina Koa Pono chair Kenton Eldridge. Sennet lists `Aina Koa Pono as one of its Transactions, and Lim is listed on the Sennet website as an advisor. See more at www.westhawaiitoday.com.

`AINA KOA PONO IS CIRCULATING RESULTS OF A SURVEY of 303 Hawai`i Island residents. The survey was conducted by SMS Research and Marketing, of Honolulu. AKP lists SMS as one of its partners on its website, ainakoapono.com.
      SMS Research found that only 10 percent of those interviewed knew about the `Aina Koa Pono project when asked on an unaided basis. After a description of the project was provided, 56 percent stated they were in favor of the project as compared to 11 percent opposed. Another 33 percent said they did not know enough about the project.
      “Hawai`i Island residents were surveyed because we wanted to get a sense of the level of acceptance and support for the Ka`u project,” said AKP partner Chris Eldridge. “What we learned was that while there’s support, we need to do more education and outreach.”
      Surveyors say areas of support for `Aina Koa Pono’ project include safety, keeping money in the state, additional jobs, revitalization of Hawai`i’s agricultural industry and reduction of electric bills.
      Concerns listed by the surveyors include the perception that `Aina Koa Pono will be run by outsiders, may have some impact on traffic, biofuel will cost more to produce than imported oil, and the plant will be too expensive to build.
Chris Eldridge
      Eldridge responded that “`Aina Koa Pono is locally owned, and the $450 million project is privately funded. Eight to 12 trucks a week will deliver biofuel to Keahole. The project poses no financial risk to ratepayers, who pay nothing until the biofuel is produced and accepted by HELCO.”

ESTABLISHMENT OF A SENIOR CENTER in Ocean View will be considered by the Windward Planning Commission at its meeting on Friday, Nov. 9. The application calls for the center to also be used as a community center and an emergency shelter with a capacity of 100 people. The two-acre parcel of land, situated within the State Land Use Agricultural District on Lotus Blossom Lane mauka of Ace Hardware, would also have a certified kitchen. Peter Sur, of Hawai`i Tribune-Herald, reports that the county Planning Department is giving the project a positive recommendation. See more at hawaiitribune-herald.com.