Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014

Five barrier lakes of Wudalianchi, a Chinese volcanic sister park to Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.
 Photo by Guo Bailin/ Wudalianchi National Park
HAWAI`I VOLCANOES AND A NATIONAL PARK IN CHINA have formed a sister relationship and the agreement is making headlines through an Associated Press story carried by the press in both countries. A statement from Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park says that the relationship will “strengthen their shared volcanic heritage by promoting international cooperation and support for the mutual benefit of both parks. 
Wudalianchi National Park in China is sister to Volcanoes in Hawai`i.
Photo from www.china.org
      “Both Hawai‘i Volcanoes and Wudalianchi national parks feature active volcanoes and are celebrated throughout the world for their geological, biological, and cultural attributes. In Hawai‘i, Kīlauea volcano, which is currently erupting from two locations, and Mauna Loa, which last erupted in 1984, draw more than 1.5 million visitors a year to the park. Wudalianchi has 14 volcanoes, two of which are active but not erupting. The last significant eruptive period from Laoheishan and Huoshaoshan volcanoes occurred between 1719 and 1721, resulting in large quantities of lava that formed a plateau in the center of the park, and blocked the north-south flowing Shilong River in several places – forming a string of five lakes, which translates to ‘Wudalianchi,’” notes the HVNP statement.
     “The Chinese park is also known for its mineral springs, giant boulders, and lava tubes. Approximately a million people a year visit Wudalianchi National Park, which is located in northeast China in the Heilongjiang province, near the Russian border,” the statement says.
      In 2011, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando attended a conference in China with other representatives from volcano parks worldwide and visited Wudalianchi. Discussions on the sister relationship began and representatives of the Chinese park soon visited Volcano and Ka`u and were hosted for a dinner at Pahala Plantation House.
     Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park also has a sister park agreement with Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes of South Korea. 
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SUPPORT FOR MINA MORITA to continue as chair of the Public Utilities Commission has come in a letter to the governor from eight members of the state Senate and 16 members of the state House of Representatives, including west Ka`u Rep. Richard Creagan. Morita is known in Ka`u for the PUC decision to twice turn down a contract between the electric utility and `Aina Koa Pono, which planned to build a refinery on the edge of Wood Valley. Mayor Billy Kenoi and County of Hawai`i also opposed the contract based on its projected increase in the price of electricity.
    West Ka`u Senator Josh Green and East Ka`u Senator Russell Ruderman both said they support Morita's reappointment. “I served with Mina for four years in the legislature and found her to be one of the most informed legislators,” said Green. Ruderman said today, "I think she is really good. Some people say she is being punished for turning down AKP but that is ridiculous. She should be praised. She should be independent and she made the right decision in that case."
PUC Chair Mina Morita   

     Writers for Ililani Media, Civil Beat, the Honolulu Star Advertiser and this news service reported recently that Gov. Neil Abercrombie is thinking of appointing someone else and pointed to the rejection of the `Aina Koa Pono refinery plan as a possible reason. 
     The 24 legislators wrote the governor saying, “We are writing to express our displeasure at your recent decision to dismiss Public Utilities Chair Hermina Morita at the end of her current term June 30, 2014. This administration has done little to give the necessary support and assistance to the PUC and your department of Budget and Finance to which the PUC is an attached agency, has actively hindered their operations, including the hiring of staff. The shortcomings that you seemingly blame on Chair Morita represent shortcomings in the state system, complexity in PUC rules, and matters over which one Commissioner – even the Chair cannot fully control.
     “When Chair Morita arrived at the PUC, it needed steady leadership to provide guidance, direction and restore public trust. That was no easy task, but Chair Morita led that effort with her quiet yet effective style. It also seems to us that Chair Morita is being blamed for collective impartial decisions by the PUC based on sound legal analysis, due diligence as required of the PUC by state law, and careful and considered attention to unnecessary negative impacts to the ratepaying public. The PUC, in our view, has an obligation to act in the public interest no matter who the petitioner may be or may have as its representative or consultant.
     “We write this letter with heavy hearts because we expected more.” The letter urges the governor to “reconsider your action and announce your full support for Chair Morita by appointing her to a new term on the PUC and instructing your departments to assist the PUC in fulfilling its mission rather than throwing roadblocks in the way.”
     Stories and opinion pieces during the past two weeks mentioned the PUC’s twice rejection of the Aina Koa Pono plan to build the $400 million microwave refinery and clear trees, brush and plants between Pahala and Na`alehu to feed the biofuel plant and truck the fuel to a Kona electric plant.
    The PUC said it made its decision to reject the 20-year fixed price contract for the electric company to purchase biofuel from AKP largely on the basis of the AKP contract likely resulting in more expensive electric rates. 
Abercrombie challenger David Ige said he would
reappoint Morita if her were governor.
      Media reports point out  that the governor’s campaign chairman William Kaneko was a registered lobbyist for `Aina Koa Pono. On the board of `Aina Koa Pono is the retired president of Hawaiian Electric Industries. A board member of Sennet Capital, which lists `Aina Koa Pono as a transaction, is current director of the state Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism.
     Governor’s spokesman Justin Fujioka, however, told Civil Beat reporter Sophie Cocke twice last week that Abercrombie is still reviewing the Morita appointment.
     A piece in Friday’s Honolulu Star Advertiser by political columnist Richard Borreca reported that Morita chaired the state House committee on energy for years before giving up her elected position to serve the PUC when she received Abercrombie’s appointment. Borreca recalled the governor's promise to make the PUC an “Hawai`i Energy Authority that is independent from the utility and from political considerations," saying this "is what Hawai`i needs to move us quicker to a clean energy future."
     Borreca’s story quotes the chair of the state Senate’s Consumer Protection Committee, Sen. Roz Baker, describing Morita: “She is collaborative, well grounded in policy and she has the respect of both the energy users and the energy producers; she clearly has the credentials. She was, and is, a good PUC chair and I think she should stay.” ”
     Borreca also gave his opinion on the Morita issue in the context of the upcoming gubernatorial election. "Environmental issues and voters attuned to supporting politicians with strong pro-environment records are not a group to be offended. Abercrombie will have to consider all that, because when asked if he would reappoint Morita if he were governor today, state Den. David Ige, Abercrombie’s Democratic opponent, said, ‘I would reappoint her,’” wrote Borreca.
To comment on or “like” this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

NO PROPERTY TAX RATE INCREASE is the word from Mayor Billy Kenoi. A story in this morning’s Hawai`i Tribune Herald by Nancy Cook Lauer says that “Increases in property values coupled with an improving economy should provide enough revenue to balance the county budget without having to raise property taxes this year, despite across-the-board salary hikes for county employees covered by collective bargaining agreements.”
     She quotes the mayor saying, “We look forward to submitting a balanced budget while meeting our collective bargaining agreements and maintaining level funding for county departments.” Cook Lauer points out that “The union raises, negotiated at the state level, add about $15 million to the county budget this year." The mayor  is expected to submit his annual budget for County Council consideration in the coming week. The council will provide feedback, the mayor will have a chance to change the budget and the council must approve an operating budget for the county by June 30 for the next fiscal year.
     See more at http//hawaii-tribuneherald.com. 
To comment on or “like” this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.
KA`U CHAMBER OF COMMERCE will hold its next meeting at 5 p.m. tomorrow, Monday, Feb. 24 at Pahala Plantation House. Discussion will include distribution of The Directory and other Ka`u Chamber programs. Call Pres. Dallas Decker at 516-662-8789.

SEN. RUSSELL RUDERMAN’S TOWN HALL MEETING will be open to the public on this coming Monday, Feb. 24 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Pahala Plantation House on the corner of Maile and Pikake Streets. Light refreshments will be served. Call 808-586-6890 or email senruderman@capitol.hawaii.gov.

SEE THE DIRECTORY 2014 ONLINE. For a page-turning version, see www.kaucalendar.com/Directory2014.swf. For a pdf version, see www.kaucalendar.com/Directory2014.pd


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