Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013

Cattle between Pahala and Na`alehu could be replaced by biofuel crops under the AKP plan, which received new testimony
 posted yesterday by the Public Utilities. Photo by Julia Neal
COFFEE AND MACADAMIA PICKERS FROM THAILAND, some of them staying in homes in Ka`u during their employment with Global Horizons, Inc. several years ago, are long gone. However, an undisclosed settlement has been crafted between the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Global Horizons, Inc., Global Horizons Manpower, Inc. and at least one farm, accused of substandard living conditions for workers.
      Involved are five Hawai`i farms, one of them, MacFarms of Hawai`i, which draws a majority of its local workers from Ka`u to its macadamia orchards just north of the Ka`u and South Kona district borders. The other companies are Captain Cook Coffee Co., Kelena Farms, Del Monte Fresh Produce of Hawai`i and Kaua`i Coffee Co. The lawsuit by the federal government focuses on working and living conditions, including the accusation that 20 Mac Farm workers, hired by Global Horizons, were crowded into a house in Na`alehu that was ill-equipped for even five persons. According to the allegations, the accommodations “lacked a fully functioning toilet, toilet paper, and hot water and had a buckling kitchen floor.”
Most coffee pickers come from the local community since the crack down by the
federal government.  Photo by Geneveve Fyvie
     Global Horizons president Mordechai Orian visited Ka`u several times while contracting to provide coffee and macadamia nut pickers here. He said he was unfairly accused in the U.S. government’s largest human-trafficking case in history. Charges were dismissed in 2012. Global Horizons, originating in Israel, provided workers from countries around the world for various tasks from concrete and stone work in fast growing Middle East resort cities to harvesting crops in Hawai`i and Washington state. Orian said that Thai workers were some of the best for farming because they came to the U.S. to work and took the money back home where they were happy with their lives and their families. Few tried to stay in this country illegally, he contended.
     However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission contended in a public statement that “between 2003 and 2007, Global Horizons enticed Thai male nationals into working at the farms with the false promises of steady, high-paying agricultural jobs along with temporary visas allowing them to live and work in the U.S. legally. The opportunity came at a price: high recruitment fees creating an insurmountable debt for the Thai workers. When they reached the U.S., Global Horizons confiscated the workers’ passports and threatened deportation if they complained, which set the tone for the abuses to come. The Thai workers were assigned to work at six farms in Hawai`i (Captain Cook Coffee Company, Del Monte Fresh Produce, Kaua`i Coffee Company, Kelena Farms, MacFarms of Hawai`i, and Maui Pineapple Farms) and two farms in Washington (Green Acre Farms and Valley Fruit Orchards), harvesting a variety of items from pineapples to coffee beans. The EEOC asserts that the farms not only ignored abuses, but also participated in the obvious mistreatment, intimidation, harassment, and unequal pay of the Thai workers,” the federal statement contended.
     Since the federal suit, many coffee and macadamia farmers have shied away from foreign workers and attempted to hire more local pickers, particularly from the Micronesian community that lives here and sends children to the local public schools.
     The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s attorney David Lopez, has scheduled a press conference in Los Angeles for this Monday, Nov. 18, to announce the settlement involving Global Horizons and at least one of the farms involved in the investigation.
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Pastures would be cleared of trees, shrubs and grasses in favor of biofuel crops.
Photo by Julia Neal
`AINA KOA PONO’S PLAN to harvest trees, shrubs and grasses from lands between Pahala and Na`alehu and to plant biofuel crops to feed a $400 million refinery to be built off Wood Valley Road has gained more testimony. The new testimony proposes to prevent the electric utilities from charging customers for the expense of attorneys and staff they used to support the AKP proposal and to reimburse government agencies that spent money on the issue.
     After a month without new AKP letters published on the state Public Utilities Commission website, the PUC yesterday posted the proposal and analysis from an undisclosed source. The anonymous testimony refers to the expense of debating the issue, which led the County of Hawai`i to assign its attorneys and hire a consultant to fight the electric rate increases proposed by the electric utilities to support the AKP plan. Hawai`i Electric Light Co. and Hawaiian Electric Co. have used their staff and attorneys to support AKP.
     The unnamed author writes: “The process has been lengthy and expensive for both the taxpayers and the ratepayers. Consider that the combined number of PUC document pages for AKP-1 (the first AKP proposal that was turned down by the PUC) and AKP-2 (now before the PUC) is currently about 6,000. The majority of those pages were prepared or vetted by attorneys for the PUC, County of Hawai`i, Consumer Affairs, and DEBDT (all taxpayer funded) or by attorneys for HECO/HELCO (ratepayer funded). In addition, there were numerous public hearings, private meetings, consultants hired, staff salaries, etc. It's anybody's guess as to how much this all adds up to, but it is probably a few million dollars.
      “A rudimentary engineering analysis of the data that was available to HELCO at the time of the AKP-1 application would have shown that the mass balance (in the plan to use a new microwave process to make the biofuel) was fatally flawed. Any competent engineer should have immediately looked at such a new process with an eye towards whether or not it is thermodynamically possible. The two consulting firms that HELCO hired to perform due diligence were unable to make such an evaluation and returned reports that were essentially disguised condemnations of the process and yet HELCO pressed ahead with the application.
      “The point is that all this could have been avoided had HECO/HELCO done an appropriate level of objective due diligence before embarking on this ordeal. They did not. The purpose of this document is to demonstrate that failure and to propose that HECO/HELCO be held accountable."
Proposed `Aina Koa Pono refinery site off Wood Valley Road. Photo by Julia Neal
      Concerning the first AKP proposal, which was turned down by the PUC, the writer points to the consultant Det Norske Veritas’ analysis, which “clearly states that their experts were unable to make a technical assessment of the technology due to lack of information.
     “Paragraph 4.1.1 "...the revenue explained in the proposal is based on production of 32 million gallons of biodiesel per year however the DNV assessor could only credibly account for 23 million gallons of biodiesel per year." This is a clear indication that what little information provided to DNV was so grossly in error that their assessor could not rationalize it.
     “Paragraph 4.1.2 "... nearly all essential data is missing regarding this aspect of the proposal, including overall mass and energy balances."
     “DNV keys in on two critical issues: where does the oxygen go and where does the hydrogen come from? "...Given the chemical composition of the proposed feedstock compared to the claimed composition of the product, huge amounts of an oxygen-rich by-product (possibly C02) must be generated in the reactor. However, the proposal claims that C02 is produced in "small to nonexistent quantities". In addition, several process steps are not fully described and seem to involve chemicals not mentioned (e.g. ''H2 enrichment').
     “In other words DNV did no fundamental technical evaluation of a process,” the writer contends.
Hopper at `Aina Koa Pono test facility in North Carolina.
Photo from `Aina Koa Pono
     Concerning another analysis for the first AKP proposal, the writer points to the HERTY Assessment’s Executive Summary, Page 5: “‘...the majority of the available data was generated at the bench facility.’ Giassware (1.5 kg/batch) demonstration is just the first step in developing a chemical process. The pitfalls between glassware and commercialization are numerous and costly.
     “Paragraph 1.3 ‘Mass and energy balances can be done around each unit operation of the process and around the entire process. Such an analysis is not part of the scope of work for the current assessment.’ A mass and energy balance is the key to determining the feasibility of a process and must be an integral part of the due diligence.
     “Paragraph 5.3 ‘Work Is underway by BFT to measure key gas properties.’ This statement indicated that virtually nothing was known about one of the three major output streams.
     “Paragraph 6 ‘Measurement and comparison of condensed oil quality with fuel standards is underway. More extensive product analysis data is needed on all three products on AKP feedstocks.’ In other words there was not enough information available to make a technical judgment.
     “In other words HERTY did no fundamental technical evaluation of a process.”
      The anonymous author, published by the PUC, concludes that “Both of the companies hired by HECO/HELCO to perform due diligence expressed serious concerns about the lack of data available to them and the state of development of the technology. Even an engineering undergraduate student could have examined the claims made in the application and determined that the mass balance was impossible.
     “Nevertheless, HECO/HELCO pushed ahead with the application based on a process that was still in the glassware stage and little more than a pie-in-the-sky idea. This irresponsible action resulted in substantial expense to the ratepayers and taxpayers.
      “HECO/HELCO should therefore not be allowed to include the associated expenses in their rate base and should reimburse the State and County of Hawai`i for their costs as well,” the writer recommends.
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DONATIONS OF GOODS to be shipped free to Philippines typhoon disaster victims are due Monday, according to organizer Gloria Camba, a director of the Big Island Filipino Community Council. She said the canned goods, tooth paste, soaps and other items will be taken to Hilo on Monday night for shipment to PI, courtesy of the company. However, monetary donations will be accepted on an ongoing basis at both the R&G store in Pahala and the Will & Grace store in Na`alehu, she said. Those who want to help can also donate online through the American Red Cross.

BASKETBALL SCORES from last night’s Trojan hosted tournament at Ka`u High School Gym are in. Ka`u girls beat Kealakehe 36 to 35 with a last-second shot by Kerrilynn Domondon. High scorers for Ka`u were Domondon with 15 and Shyann Flores-Carvalho with 9, reports Kalei Namohala, Ka`u High’s Athletic Director.
     In the other game, Pahoa beat Lapahoehoe 64-15. The tournament continues today.

Caren Loebel-Fried will demonstrate block carving.
Photo from Volcano Art Center
CANNED GOODS and dry food items are being collected during the high school girls basketball tournament today at Ka`u High School gym in Pahala. One can of food earns free admission.

CHRISTMAS IN THE COUNTRY begins Friday, Nov. 22 with an exhibit at Volcano Art Center Niaulani Campus in Volcano Village to showcase artists who will teach workshops and classes in the upcoming year. From 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. take in free art activities for adults and kids, including Make your own Holiday Card, and Paint the Volcano, in the Hale Ho'omana Education Building at the Niaulani Campus on Old Volcano Hwy.
     On Saturday, Nov. 23rd, festivities at Volcano Art Center Gallery in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park begin with the renowned wreath exhibit, unique handmade ornaments for sale, demos by well known local artists, book and print signings, and a visit by Santa Claus.
Beloved Volcano artist Dietrich Varez and author David Eyre will sign their books and prints on Saturday, Nov. 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will be joined by Nancee Cline from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m,
signing her book Queen Emma's Church in Kealakekua, Crossroads of Culture. Caren Loebel-Fried will demonstrate block carving and printing on Sunday, Nov. 24 from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. She will also sign and personalize her books and prints.
     In advance of Volcano Art Center's 40th anniversary in 2014, a limited edition poster has been created, featuring a stunning photo of the active Halema'ma'u crater by well known architect and photographer Boone Morrison. Morrison will be at Volcano Art Center Gallery to sign posters on Sunday, Nov. 24 from 11 a.m. to 4 pm. Posters will be available for purchase at the Gallery.
The upcoming events are inspired by the motto of Volcano Art Center: Where People, Art & Nature Thrive. All activities and demos are free of charge, but park entrance fees may apply. For questions and further information, call the Volcano Art Center Gallery at 808-967-7565.
To comment on or “like” this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.


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