Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs May 26, 2013

Keola Beamer, Jeff Peterson and Moanalani Beamer present a benefit concert for Volcano Art Center next Sunday.
Photo from VAC
AMOUNTS WERE MORE THAN $28,000 HIGHER than the national average for Hawai`i borrowers who received benefits or relief as part of a mortgage abuse settlement, according to the latest report from Joseph Smith, of the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight. The average amount to Hawai`i borrowers was $110,205, compared the national average of $81,437.
Joseph Smith
      The total relief for 1,597 borrowers in Hawai`i was almost $176 million. Short sales made up most of the relief at a total of $81 million. Forgiven second mortgages made up $57.4 million in relief. Modifications, or reductions, to first mortgage principle totaled over $28 million, and $5 million went to loan refinancing.
      Over one year ago, the Department of Justice, Department of Housing Urban Development and 49 state attorneys general reached a landmark agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers to address mortgage loan servicing and foreclosure abuses. The lenders are Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and GMAC Mortgage parent Ally Financial Inc..
      “It is clear that this historic settlement is making a profound difference on lives and communities,” said Shaun Donovan, secretary of HUD. “Due to the efforts by 49 bipartisan state attorneys general and the federal government, hundreds of thousands of people are able to stay in their homes or avoid foreclosure, preventing the erosion of the social fabric of our communities.”
      The report is available at mortgageoversight.com.

Ko`oko`olau is now listed as an endangered species.
Photo from botany.hawaii.edu
THIRTY-FIVE HAWAIIAN PLANTS and three tree snails are being added to the federal government’s list of endangered species. In its ruling, the Fish & Wildlife Service also reaffirms the previous listing of two Hawaiian plants as endangered. The ruling conserves these 40 species, collectively called the Maui Nui species, under the Endangered Species Act, preventing unauthorized possession, sale or transport of the species and allowing FWS to protect their habitat.
      The listings are part of a 2011 settlement agreement stemming from a lawsuit filed by the environmental group WildEarth Guardians.
      FWS determined that the Maui Nui species are currently in danger of extinction throughout all their ranges because of current and ongoing threats. Threats include destruction and modification of the species’ habitat, primarily from introduced ungulates such as feral pigs, goats, cattle, mouflon sheep, and axis deer and the spread of nonnative plants. Other threats to habitat listed in the ruling are hurricanes, landslides, rockfalls, flooding and drought.
      The ruling also cites small numbers of populations and individuals and low levels of regeneration as other threats.
       The endangered species include Newcomb’s tree snail, two species of Lana`i tree snail, sea beans, `iliahi and several types of ko`oko`olau and haha.
      All of these endangered species are on Moloka`i, Lana`i and Maui, which, according to the ruling, were connected by a broad lowland plain and unified as a single island during the last Ice Age about 21,000 years ago when sea levels were approximately 459 feet below their present level. As a result, the species are found throughout this group of islands.
      The entire ruling is available at s3.amazonaws.com.

REGARDING HAWAI`I COUNTY’S TESTIMONY to the Public Utilities Commission on the proposed contract for `Aina Koa Pono to sell biofuel refined above Pahala from biomass grown in Ka`u to Hawai`i Electric Light Co., the state Consumer Advocate asked the county about its contention that, “due to uncertainties regarding the feedstock for the proposed project, there may be unanticipated quantitative increases in cost for AKP.”
      Hawai`i County responded, “The Consumer Advocate is correct that the AKP contract does not have a mechanism to transfer higher AKP biodiesel prices during the twenty-year contract period to ratepayers once its fixed, annually escalated price schedule is established.
      “That being said, please consider what would happen if unexpected feedstock and/or production prices drive the cost of AKP biodiesel to the point where it cannot be profitably sold at the designated price – and what that means for ratepayers. In this event, the following options will be available:
  1. AKP could continue to produce fuel and sell to HELCO at a loss: as an operating business with fiduciary responsibility to its investors, this is not a feasible option – no matter how well-intentioned are the parties. 
  2. AKP could go out of business, since it would be unable to achieve its primary business purpose. 
  3. AKP could continue to supply HELCO at a higher price, and HELCO could petition the PUC for a rate increase, under the argument that – with an established production facility in place – it will benefit Hawai`i’s energy independence and security objectives to adjust prices so this already built and operating facility can continue to meet the state’s specified renewable energy goals. 

      “Since Option #1 is not feasible, either #2 or #3 is most likely. If AKP ceases operations, then HELCO will be forced to seek other sources of diesel or biodiesel and ramp up supply options … for the Keahole Power Plant as quickly as possible, which is likely to be complicated since other competing projects will have been frozen out due to the twenty-plus year commitment of the proposed contract.
      “If AKP seeks to increase fuel prices and HELCO petitions to pass these costs on to ratepayers – and if the PUC approves such rate increases – then Hawai`i citizens may be forced to pay yet more in the name of energy security and self-sufficiency.
      “Ironically, the twenty-year plus commitment of the proposed contract will have prevented other projects from coming forward or from even having been considered by the utilities, with the result that ratepayers will be forced into continued subsidies of a project that may not be the most cost-effective or environmentally beneficial among other biofuel options.
      This is the risk that ratepayers face if AKP cannot produce fuel profitably, even at the high fixed prices of this contract. County believes that other projects currently being developed, scaled up, and/or built at commercial scale are seeking to appropriately match feasible feedstock input and fuel output of their systems, and that substantial breakthroughs can reasonably be expected in the next three to seven years that will demonstrate feasible and cost-effective biofuels production.”
      This and other testimony is available at puc.hawaii.gov. Docket number is 2012-0185.

THE PUBLIC IS INVITED TO Kilauea Military Camp’s Memorial Day ceremony tomorrow. Ka`u’s U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is keynote speaker, and guest speaker is Captain Justin L. Montgomery, commander of the 871st Engineer Co. at Hilo. Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park waives entry fees for those who enter the park between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. and inform park attendants that they are going to the ceremony. The event takes place at 3 p.m. on the front lawn, and in case of inclement weather, moves to the Koa Room inside KMC’s lobby.

KILAUEA MILITARY CAMP’S CRATER RIM CAFÉ hosts a Memorial Day buffet from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. tomorrow. Prices are $14.25 for adults and $8 for children 6 to 11 years old. Open to authorized patrons and sponsored guests. Park entrance fees apply. Call 967-8356 for more information.

HAWAIIAN MUSICIANS KEOLA BEAMER and Jeff Peterson team up with dancer Moanalani Beamer for a special concert event to benefit Volcano Art Center. The trio offers a performance of Hawaiian slack key guitar music accompanied by hula, chant and traditional instrumentation next Sunday, June 2 at 2 p.m. at VAC’s Ni`aulani Campus in Volcano Village.
      Tickets are available in limited quantity for $25 each and can be purchased online at volcanoartcenter.org or by phone at 967-8222. Discounted tickets are not available for this special engagement.
      “We are exceptionally grateful to Keola, Jeff and Moanalani for choosing us for this benefit concert,” states VAC’s CEO Tanya Aynessazian. “They have generously offered up their time and talents for us, believing in us and supporting us, and it means the world to all of us.”



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