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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ka`u News Briefs Oct. 31, 2012

Ka`u resident Alison Yahna's testimony expressed concern about taking biomass "from the beautiful hills of Ka`u" to make biodiesel at a refinery above Pahala. Photo by Julia Neal
ERRONEOUS IS WHAT SEN. MALAMA SOLOMON called `Aina Koa Pono’s “claims that they are the only viable project moving at this time before the Public Utilities Commission.” The senator pointed to a geothermal energy docket before the PUC that has been open for 12 months. Solomon was testifying last night before the PUC at a public hearing in Kona. Ka`u residents who made the drive to Kealakehe High School noted that no hearings were planned for Ka`u, where AKP plans to build a diesel refinery and use 12,000 acres to harvest and grow feedstock for their operation. Alison Yahna, owner of an apiary and farm off South Point Road, said she spent $50 in fuel to drive her truck to the public meeting.
Sen. Malama Solomon
      Solomon said she supports Mayor Billy Kenoi’s opposition to the `Aina Koa Pono proposal and noted the mayor’s statement that the proposed fixed price for the biodiesel that AKP plans to manufacture would be “roughly $200 per barrel, more than double the current, going rate for crude oil."
      AKP partner Chris Eldridge said that the comparison isn’t accurate because diesel costs more than crude oil.
      Solomon said Hawaiian Electric Company “has refused to take action” on putting out a request for the further expansion of geothermal. “To my knowledge, HECO is blaming the PUC for not designating an Independent Observer to solve this dilemma. I am requesting that the PUC immediately retain an Independent Observer and expedite the geothermal Request for Proposals before December, so it can be rewarded by March 2013."
      Solomon attacked AKP’s claim that its project “will renew Ka`u, which has the largest unemployment and the greatest agricultural potential on the island. I disagree.” She said she agrees with the county’s new Baseline Study for Food Self-Sufficiency that identifies North and South Kohala, Hamakua, Hilo, and Puna – not Ka`u – as the highest potential areas for expanded agricultural production, in part based on existing infrastructure. Solomon said Puna has the largest unemployment – not Ka`u.
      The senator also objected to AKP’s proposed rate increases through surcharges. “This is unacceptable because it places the financial burden of the development of their project on the shoulders of residents and businesses,” she said.
PUC chair Mina Morita
      Solomon called AKP’s technology “highly questionable” and pointed to the mayor’s concern about “using Ka`u as a test site for this unproven technology. `Aina Koa Pono admits this technology has never been used in production on this scale. Also, studies have proven that the cost to produce biofuels will be significantly higher than eight to 12 cents a kilowatt-hour, the cost of geothermal energy.”
      The senator said “geothermal is the way to solve our energy crisis in Hawai`i. It is owned by the public and Native Hawaiians; it is a plentiful resource given to us by our Hawaiian gods and goddesses, Pele and her sisters, patron of the Hula and kinolau of our Hawaiian landscape; and this is a gift to the people of Hawai`i, Na Po`e O Hawai`i.” She said that, statutorily, geothermal is now a “renewable, indigenous, firm power. Imua Kakou, let us move forward.”

HAWAI`I STATE CONSUMER ADVOCATE JEFFREY ONO said he would like to know whether the community view “of the biodiesel supply contract would change if maybe all of the costs were born by O`ahu ratepayers and none of it by Big Island ratepayers.” He noted that the application is to charge customers on the Big Island and O`ahu for the the electric bill surcharge to pay for the biofuel. He also said the PUC could choose to change the contract so that only O`ahu residents would bear the higher cost.

Council member Brenda Ford
COUNCIL MEMBER BRENDA FORD testified against HELCO’s proposed 4.2 percent rate increase. “We need to get these rates down, and need you to protect us and not the shareholders,” she told the PUC. She asked whether highly paid utility executives took pay reductions and furlough days as government workers and teachers did during the recession. She said HELCO execs should not be getting bonuses. 

STATE REPRESENTATIVE DENNY COFFMAN, who is chairman of the House Committee on Energy & Environmental Protection, opposed the AKP contract, saying it will only allow HELCO to keep the obsolete power plant working longer to make more profits. He urged the PUC to wait for planning for the most affordable and efficient renewable energies before committing to any contract that would raise electric bills.

ANOTHER TESTIFIER called the AKP plan “destruction of 12,000 acres in Ka`u.”

ALISON YAHNA, OF KA`U, TALKED ABOUT THE TREACHEROUS, winding road between Ka`u and Keahole power plant. During her drive to the hearing, she said she saw a pedestrian lying on the side of the road who had just been hit by a car. She urged the PUC to reject the AKP plan to take 900 tons of biomass a day “ from the beautiful hills of Ka`u to put into the jaws” of the microwave refinery. She said the monocrop would replace forage for pollinators and food for birds. The biologist said, “This is a cost that is not even measurable; it is a cost of life.”

MARION "G-DOG" GERUSCHAT, A MUSICIAN FROM KA`U, TESTIFIED, “This plant does not seem to make a lot of sense,” putting it on the southern end of the island. “Grow it where you use it,” she said.

Chris Manfredi
GERI CUDDIHY, OF LOUISIANA, said she disagreed with testimony Monday night that Ka`u people are doing well. She again called them impoverished and pointed to unemployment statistics. She said 24 percent of people in Pahala live in poverty. She pointed to the success Ka` u Coffee farmers and said they are on month-to-month leases and “their land is up for sale.” She claimed that AKP’s biodiesel will be better than oil because it will emit no dioxins, no nitrous oxide and reduce greenhouse gases by more that 80 percent. 

KA`U RESIDENTS ALSO TESTIFIED at the public meeting in Hilo Monday evening.

CHRIS MANFREDI, MANAGER OF LAND where much Ka`u Coffee is grown, said, “We are on the path for a diversified agricultural economy that will not repeat the mistakes of the past, of mono-cropping and boom-and-bust-cycles.”

Earl Louis
EARL LOUIS REFERRED to a sign put up near the proposed site of AKP’s refinery by the Olson Trust that says “Malama `Aina.” He said, “Malama `aina means you’re going to take care of the land and not desecrate it.” He encouraged the trust to keep its word. 

WALK-IN VOTING CONTINUES through Saturday at Aupuni Center Conference Room in Hilo, West Hawai`i Civic Center’s Community Room in Kona and Waimea Community Center on Kawaihae Road. Registered voters with photo ID can vote at any of these polling places. Call Hawai`i County Elections Office at 961-8277 for more information.

MAILE YAMANAKA PRESENTS her monthly program at Volcano Art Center in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park on Friday. She presents Hamakua in Myth, Chant, Dance & Song from 11a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Hula, the Art of Hawaiian Dance begins at 1 p.m., and Keiki Hula, is from 3 – 4 p.m. 937-4249.