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.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ka`u News Briefs Monday, Feb. 6, 2017

Mayor Harry Kin, taking office for the third term, last December, will talk story in Ocean View on Wednesday.
Photo by Ann Bosted
MAYOR HARRY KIM TALKS STORY AT OCEAN VIEW COMMUNITY CENTER this Wednesday, Feb., 8 at 6 p.m. and the public is invited to discuss community issues. Crime and the need for localized policing is a hot topic, with a petition having been circulated.
     The mayor, serving his third term after sitting out for two terms, is 77 years of age. He was born in Hawai`i and was the long-time chief Civil Defense and the popular voice of emergency broadcasting on the island. His first term as mayor was from 2,000 to 2008. He attended Hilo High School and the University of Hawai`i at Hilo and graduated from Southern Oregon State University. He served in the United States Army as a medic and was a teacher and coach. Kim served for 16 years as Hawai`i County's Director of Civil Defense. While Kim first ran for mayor as a Republican, he considers himself to be nonpartisan. During his time at the top county post, Kim advocated, among other initiatives, recycling projects and the creation of a new County office complex in the place of the defunct Kaikoʻo Mall in Hilo.
      When Kim ran for mayor in 2016 it was on a campaign to restore trust in government. He was elected mayor once again in primary voting on Aug. 13 when he received more than 50 percent of the votes cast in a field of 13 candidates (thereby avoiding a runoff election in November). In keeping with a commitment he had made in every campaign, to accept no more than a $10 donation from any individual, Kim spent a total of $21,931 in 2016, with a per vote cost of $1.06. His nearest competitor spent $220,289, with a per vote cost of $22.11.  For more on campaign spending in 2016, please read the Ka`u News Briefs of Jan. 26, and the February edition of The Ka’u Calendar. 
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A Public Utilities Commission case in 2011 drew a packed house at Pahala Community Center when a refinery was planned in
Wood Valley for making fuel for HELCO. Intervenors, who spend many hundreds of hours researching and employing
attorneys and experts for such cases without pay, may for future cases, be compensated, should the
legislature pass a new law and the intervenors prove value to consumers.
Photo by Michael Martin Neal

INTERVENORS IN PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION CASES could be compensated for their services, provided they make substantial contributions with positive results for consumers. This is the aim of a bill introduced into the Hawai`i Legislature by Rep. Chris Lee as House Bill 805. If it becomes law, it would establish an “intervenor compensation program” to reimburse attorney fees, expert witness fees and other expenses to organizations or individuals. Lee is chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.
      The Hawai`i program would be modeled after a similar program in California where that state awarded $25.5 million from 2008 to 2012 for 370 claims submitted by intervenors. Seven states allow intervenors to receive reimbursement for their costs when they make a substantial contribution to a PUC proceeding, producing a clear benefit for consumers, according to the bill.
     The purpose section of the bill explains that the Hawai’i PUC is tasked with “balancing the interests of consumers against the interests of regulated companies. Regulated companies and utilities tend to have significant resources to advocate for their interests before the public utilities commission, but few organizations or individuals have a similar capacity to advocate for the interests of the people.”
     The bill states that “While Hawai`i's consumer advocate has a broad mission and is directed to act on behalf of individual consumers, the consumer advocate must also represent the interests of large industrial consumers and commercial entities. This can potentially limit advocacy on behalf of individual consumers when their interests conflict with that of larger entities the consumer advocate must also represent."
A proposed industrial scale solar farm in Ocean View drew a packed house at
Ocean View Community Center in 2015 and is drawing intervenors
to the PUC process. Photo by Julia Neal
      The bill provides examples of success stories with other PUC's: “The California Intervenor Compensation Program, enacted into law in 1981, has successfully encouraged advocacy on behalf of consumers that scaled back large rate hike proposals by utilities, which saved California consumers billions of dollars. A 2013 audit found that the commission program was well-managed, and that it had awarded $25,500,000 from 2008 through 2012 for 377 claims. Some of those intervenors include the Utility Reform Network, Utility Consumers' Action Network, Disability Rights Advocates, Aglet Consumer Alliance, The Greenlining Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, Consumer Federation of California, Green Power Institute, and Rancho Peñasquitos Concerned Citizens.”
     Energy guru and blogger, Henry Curtis of Life of the Land, wrote that he strongly supports this measure. Life of the Land, a non-profit organization, has intervened in many cases before the PUC, and has applied for intervenor status in the Ocean View solar installation project. The PUC has put the project on hold while a 72-page complaint against the 6.5 megawatt project is investigated. Mats Fogelvik, President of the Hawaiian Ranchos Road Maintenance Corp., has also applied for intervenor status. Both applications are opposed by HELCO.
     Curtis described how California’s intervenor compensation program works, writing “a California State Auditor audit of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) intervenor compensation were well below a half of one percent of the savings to ratepayers. What a bargain!
     “By contrast, in Hawai`i, few motions to intervene in rate cases have ever been filed. For electric utility rate cases, for the first time ever, four entities have filed motions to intervene in the current HELCO rate case, where the utility is seeking more than a 6 percent rise in rates.”
     Dean Nishina, Hawai’i’s Consumer Advocate offered testimony regarding the bill. He wrote: “The Consumer Advocate acknowledges that intervenors, other participants, and members of the public who take time to comment on ongoing matters before the Commission can possibly make valuable contributions to Commission decisions by providing perspectives that might otherwise not be offered for Commission consideration. The perspective the Consumer Advocate brings to any given docket is focused by design, laid out in statute, and so everyone who offers information and expertise can bring a different perspective to the Commission’s attention.
     “The Consumer Advocate has concerns about how this proposed program would be implemented and administered. If such a program is to be implemented, the Consumer Advocate supports the intent to require that there needs to be a showing of substantial contribution resulting in a decision favorable to the interest of consumers.
Henry Curtis of Life of the Land has intervened in numerous
cases involving the utility companies.
Photo from Big Island Video News
     “The Consumer Advocate also supports the provision that requires that the program, if approved, should not result in unproductive or unnecessary participation that duplicates the participation of similar interests.
     “In addition, the Consumer Advocate contends that a party should not be rewarded for results that may be attributable to another party, such as the Consumer Advocate.”
     The Chairman of the PUC, Randy Iwase, testified. He wrote: “The Commission raises concern regarding the appropriateness of placing the Commission, a quasi-judicial regulatory body, in the position to make subjective determinations regarding whether certain intervenors should receive financial compensation for their contributions to a docket. The Commission also notes that undertaking a detailed review of the reasonableness of intervenor compensation claims, as is proposed by this measure, would likely place a significant administrative burden on the Commission’s limited staff resources.”
     Testifying on behalf of HECO, MECO and HELCO, Kevin Katsura wrote that he is in opposition to the bill. He is concerned that this bill would provide funding to “intervenors who have interests that may or may not be consistent with the interests of all consumers of electric service.”
     He added that the utility companies he represents “do not believe it is appropriate for taxpayers or customers of the utility to pay for the involvement of groups whose positions would be outside the scope of the functions of the Consumer Advocate to reflect their position at public expense, subject to the priorities and limited resources of that office. As an alternative, they may advocate their own position at their own expense.”
     Katsura’s letter was the only testimony that was opposed to the bill.

THE EMAIL PRIVACY ACT PASSED THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES TODAY, cosponsored by Ka`u's Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a founding member of the Fourth Amendment Caucus. She released this statement:
   “The Electronic Communications Privacy Act was written over 30 years ago, when most Americans didn’t have an email account, let alone a smartphone, cloud storage, social media, or other forms of modern-day technology. The fact that this outdated law still governs our personal data and communication online puts all of us at risk. The Email Privacy Act makes common sense and long overdue updates to the ECPA to protect the constitutional right to privacy of millions of Americans.”
     The ECPA, passed in 1986, allows the government to search any email older than 180 days stored on a third-party server, such as Google or Yahoo, without a warrant. The legislation has not been updated since, despite rapid changes in technology over the past three decades.The Email Privacy Act would update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to state that all government agencies must get a warrant to search Americans’ online communications, regardless of when the email was crafted.
     The Fourth Amendment Caucus is a bipartisan group of lawmakers dedicated to protecting against warrantless searches and seizures, close privacy violating surveillance loopholes, and champion reform efforts to protect and restore Fourth Amendment rights. Gabbard, as a founder of the caucus, has introduced legislation in the 113th and 114th Congresses to expand the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) and give the Board greater authorities to carry out its function of balancing the government’s national security and counterterrorism activities with the need to protect the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans.

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see facebook.com/kaucalendar.

OPPOSITION TO THE NOMINEE FOR U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION is what Ka`u's Sen. Mazie Hirono testified on the floor of the U.S. Senate today. "It shouldn’t be asking too much to have an Education Secretary who will stand up for public schools and the millions of our children who attend public schools. That person is not Betsy DeVos.
     "Constituents from every state who care about our public schools and our students in public schools have broken records calling their Senators in opposition to Betsy DeVos. In the past few weeks, I’ve heard from thousands of Hawai`i residents concerned about voting for an Education Secretary who clearly does not believe in our nation’s public schools."
Sen Mazie Hirono testified today on the U.S. Senate Floor,
against the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education
      Hirono read letters from two Hawai`i educators. From one named Sandy: "As a proud Hawai`i educator for 30 plus years, I'm deeply troubled by the possible appointment of Betsy DeVos to the position of US Secretary of Education. Although I would personally never consider applying for a job I am not qualified to serve in, it's baffling to me that our new Commander in Chief thinks someone who has NO experience as a teacher or administrator could be remotely prepared to lead our nation in this role.I don't have to explain to you what a selfless calling being a teacher is, nor do I believe our Hawai`i Delegation takes educating Hawai`i's keiki lightly, so I implore you to work with other leaders in DC to make sure we have a suitable nominee for this essential position."
      Hirono said, "Sandy, and teachers like her, devote far more time and effort than is mandated to ensure that our public school students have a solid foundation in education and for life. They deserve a better qualified, better experienced, better prepared, and more committed Secretary of Education than Betsy DeVos." 
    Hirono also shared a letter from Lorelei, a middle school principal on O`ahu: "As a strong supporter of public education, I ask that you oppose the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. Educators and students deserve a Secretary who can commit to supporting every student in all public schools, and a leader that will work tirelessly to promote a public education
system that provides each child with the optimum conditions for teaching and learning. Betsy DeVos' past work in education and her performance at the recent confirmation hearing demonstrated neither a depth of experience nor knowledge base in education policy and on critical issues facing the community. As a principal, I have spoken with teachers, parents, students, and community members across the political spectrum and there is widespread agreement that Betsy DeVos is not the right person for the job.
    Concluded Hirono, "It shouldn’t be asking too much to have an education secretary who will stand up for public schools and the millions of our children who attend our public schools. That person is not Betsy DeVos."
    

HAWAI`I COUNTY COUNCIL MEETINGS will be held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Feb. 7 and 8 and Feb. 21 and 22 at 9 a.m. Ka‘ū residents can participate via videoconferencing at Nā‘ālehu State Office Building. See hawaiicounty.gov for agendas and live-streamed and archived meetings.

ETHNOBIOLOGY OF HAWAIIAN FEATHER ARTIFACTS is the subject of After Dark in the Park on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m. Free at Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium.

KA`U FARM BUREAU has set its first meeting of 2017 for Feb. 15 at the auxiliary room at the new gymnasium in Pahala at 6 p.m. Election of new officers is planned for the meeting, said Ka`u Farm Bureau President Brenda Iokepa-Moses. She recently attended the National Association of Conservation Districts meeting in Denver.