Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013


Near the site of the proposed `Aina Koa Pono refinery on the edge of Wood Valley is the proclamation in stone declaring Malama Aina,
where the Edmund C. Olson Trust plans diversified agriculture and has begun leasing property to more farmers
for coffee and other crops. Photo by Julia Neal
DENIED IS THE DECISION ON THE  `AINA KOA PONO PROPOSAL, the state Public Utilities Commission posted on its website yesterday. “The contract price for the `Aina Koa Pono-produced biofuel is excessive and not cost-effective at present and for the foreseeable future, and thus, is unreasonable and inconsistent with the public interest,” the PUC said in its denial of the proposed 20-year, fixed-price contract between AKP and Hawai`i utility companies. The biofuel would have been produced at a microwave refinery that would have been built above Pahala on the edge of Wood Valley using feedstock grown on lands between Pahala and Na`alehu. AKP proposed to clear and farm 8,000 acres from Edmund C. Olson Trust and some 4,000 acres from the Mallick family.
     Hawai`i County participated in the case before the PUC, using its county attorneys, energy staff and consultants to oppose the proposal for the utility to purchase 16 million gallons of biofuel a year from AKP for 20 years.  Mayor Billy Kenoi stated  that the county is not interested in alternative energies “unless they result in a lowering of utility bills, not raising of them.”
     Also arguing against the AKP contract was consumer and environmental group Life of the Land, which received legal standing as an intervenor in the case.
      The utility companies first filed an application for the contract almost three years ago, in Jan. 2011. After the PUC denied it in September of 2011, the utilities re-negotiated with AKP and submitted a new proposal in Aug. 2012 with a lower per-gallon and still undisclosed biofuel price. The PUC pointed out that the lower price “does not necessarily mean that the new biofuel price is reasonable and in the public interest.”
      The commission also said, “The excess level of the biofuel price … is further evidenced by the (utility) companies’ request to establish and implement their proposed Biofuel Surcharge Provision, which is designed to authorize HELCO to pass through to HELCO’s and HECO’s ratepayers the difference between the cost of the biofuel and the cost of the fossil fuel that the biofuel is replacing, in the event that the cost of the biofuel is higher than the cost of the fossil fuel.
      “The companies have failed to convince the commission that the contract, if approved by the commission, will lead to lower and stable electricity costs for HELCO ratepayers. Instead, under the reference petroleum diesel price forecast scenario, the AKP-produced biofuel will consistently exceed HELCO’s forecasted petroleum diesel prices for most of the twenty-year contract term. Thus, the companies’ projected cost savings are not expected to occur until the latter part of the twenty-year contract term.”
`Aina Koa Pono's plan,which was turned down by the PUC this week, could have displaced cattle ranchers between
Pahala and Na`alehu. Photo by Julia Neal
      While the commission recognized that the contract is intended to reduce the state’s reliance and dependence on fossil fuels, including the volatility of fossil fuel prices and supply limitations the amount of funds that are expended for importing fuel and greenhouse gas emissions, “the evidence regarding the external benefits of the AKP Project is not sufficient to convince the commission that the contract is reasonable and in the public interest.”
      In the first docket, the commission expressed its concerns that HELCO’s commitment to purchase an annual minimum quantity of AKP-produced biofuel has the potential to displace or curtail more economical, existing renewable energy resources or restrict the addition of other new low-cost, fixed price renewable energy projects. “Such a commitment, moreover, appears to benefit AKP, to the ratepayers’ detriment,” the PUC stated. “The commission’s concerns have not been alleviated by the companies’ filings in this proceeding.”
      The PUC also expressed concern that neither an independent, third-party assessment of economic impacts and potential externalities nor an environmental assessment have been produced for its review and consideration.
    “The commission rejects as unpersuasive and without merit the companies’ assertion that it is more appropriate to address externalities that relate to the AKP project in other forums and processes. Here, it is clear that AKP’s ability to obtain project financing is dependent upon the commission approving the contract. Without such approval, AKP will be unable to proceed with the project. Thus, the project and the contract, for purposes of considering the externalities in evaluating the contract, are intertwined.
      “While the Companies correctly note that the contract is for biofuel that will be manufactured within the state from a locally produced feedstock, the economic, environmental, social and other impacts associated with such an operation remain largely unknown and un-quantified at this time. The identification of the source crops is also unknown.” 
      Another unsupported presumption in the contract, the PUC stated, is the utilities assessment that AKP’s facility would create a direct economic benefit to the state in the form of a net increase in jobs and revenue taxes “because local biofuel production has a labor intensive agricultural component."
      The PUC was also not persuaded by the argument that its approval of the contract is necessary to enable the development of a large-scale, local biofuels production facility. “The commission’s rejection of the Biodiesel Supply Contract does not prevent AKP from pursuing a scaled-down version of its proposed bio-refinery project for the purpose of supplying biofuel to the transportation and other non-utility generation sectors.” Here, the commission concluded that ratepayers should not be required to “ensure the economic returns necessary to attract project financing” for the construction and development of AKP’s bio-refinery.
      Ka`u News Briefs will report on more from the PUC’s decision in upcoming days.
Keiki await the gift-giving, from educational toys
and games to three-wheelers, bells and bags
of rice and other food. Photo by Julia Neal
      The decision and all other documents filed in the docket are available at puc.hawaii.gov. Docket number is 2012-1085. Go to Dockets, Trending Dockets, `Aina Koa Pono and to documents.

IN ORDER TO OBTAIN AS MUCH INPUT from the community as possible, Ka`u Hospital has extended the deadline for its community health needs survey until the end of January. There are many ways to participate: via the Internet at surveymonkey.com/s/93HQ5MX or by completing a paper survey being distributed by members of the hospital’s community advisory board. Surveys are also available at the hospital’s rural health clinic. The purpose of this survey is to help the hospital understand the needs and expectations of the community with respect to health services so that it can direct efforts more effectively in planning for the future. “In particular, we want to know what additional services are needed that aren’t provided now at the hospital, what we do well, what we should be doing differently and what the barriers are to getting the care you need,” said administrator Merilyn Harris.
      Those who do not wish to complete a survey but who would like to provide a comment or suggestion can contact Harris at mharris@hhsc.org.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

CHRISTMAS AROUND THE TREE, honoring the late Keala Kailiawa last night, drew keiki and adults to enjoy a meal, listen to music and share gifts around the village tree at Pahala Plantation Cottages. Sponsored by Olson Trust and Bull and Jamie Kailiawa, the Jade Moses famiily, Pahala Plantation Cottages, Keoki Kahumoku, Thomas King, Mike Munnerlyn and O Ka`u Kakou, the event drew from donations by many members of the community.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Ka`u High teacher David Berry plays music with fisherman Guy Sesson
and musician and teacher Keoki Kahumoku at
Christmas Around the Tree.  Photo by Carrie Berry 
DR. DOEDE DONAUGH, WHO IS LEAVING BAY CLINIC’S Ka`u Family Health Center at the end of this month, will be joining Ka`u Rural Health Clinic half-time in late January. “Ka`u has so few medical providers that we didn’t want to lose this opportunity,” said Ka`u Hospital administrator Merilyn Harris. “We have a lot of respect for her. She has been part of our medical staff since she came to this area, and we have found her to be a very caring physician who goes the extra mile for her patients – just the kind of provider our community deserves.”
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

GARY GILL IS HAWAI`I’S NEW INTERIM HEALTH DIRECTOR, appointed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie to temporarily replace Loretta Fuddy, who died in a plane crash on Dec. 11. 
Gary Gill
      “During this interim period, Gary is ready to ensure that the important work of the Department of Health continues without interruption,” Abercrombie said. “He shares my utmost confidence and that of the entire Department of Health `ohana in moving the department forward until a permanent director is identified.”
      Abercrombie has until Feb. 9 to appoint a permanent director.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.   

VOLCANO SCHOOL OF THE ARTS & SCIENCES supporter Ross Rammelmeyer is asking those interested to sign a petition calling for funding of a new facility for the charter school. “VSAS students learn in rotting tents and WWII quonset huts reached by a rutted dirt and cinder road,” the petition states. “The school auditorium is a sheet of vinyl on large hoops, open to the rainforest weather on both ends. The playground is a former plantation equipment dump. Shards of metal continually work their way up underfoot where the children exercise and play at recess. The school is on leased land with high, annually increasing rent. The school’s burgeoning lease is the second highest line item in the school budget. As the rent increases, the school is forced to decrease enrollment to make ends meet.”  
      The petition states, “We are struggling to educate our children in one of the fastest growing areas in the state. We have given to the state land on which to build a decent new school. Our present ‘Third World’ school is already producing better-educated children than nearby public schools. We have cobbled up $156,000 to contribute to our ‘bootstrap’ building effort. We have been successful in having our Legislature re-appropriate funds for a decent, safe school only to have the effort arbitrarily strangled by our governor.”
      According to the document, the state Legislature has twice appropriated $618,000 of state construction and improvement funds, but Gov. Neil Abercrombie has not released the funds.
      The petition is available at petitions.moveon.org/sign/governor-abercrombie-5?source=c.em.cp&r_by=.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

      Hana Hou Restaurant in Na`alehu offers holiday lunch, with Christmas dinner available from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Call 929-9717 for reservations.
      South Side Shaka’s in Na`alehu has regular menu items until 8:30 p.m. Call 929-7404.

SEE THE DIRECTORY 2013 from the Ka`u Chamber of Commerce at

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