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Ka`u News Briefs Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015

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Ka`u residents can meet prospective candidates for CEO of Hawai`i Health Systems Corp. today through Thursday at Ka`u Hospital, one of the facilities it operates.
HERMINA MORITA, CHAIR of Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission, has resigned. 
      Morita is known in Ka`u for the PUC’s decision to twice turn down proposed contracts between Hawai`i Electric Light Co. and `Aina Koa Pono, which planned to build a $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. Mayor Billy Kenoi and County of Hawai`i also opposed the contract based on its projected increase in the price of electricity.
Hermina Morita
      The PUC said it made its decisions to reject the 20-year, fixed-price contracts largely on the basis of the AKP contracts likely resulting in more expensive electric rates.      The PUC called the price at which the AKP-produced biofuel would have been sold to the electric company “excessive, not cost-effective,” and “unreasonable and inconsistent with the public interest.” The commission wrote: “In effect, from a real world, bill-paying perspective, the HECO Companies seek the Commission’s approval to consistently charge affected ratepayers a premium for HELCO’s purchase and use of AKP-produced biofuel under the terms of the twenty-year contract. Such a result is unreasonable and not in the public interest.”
      While the commission wrote that its decision was largely based on the high cost of the biofuel, it noted commissioners’ other major concerns with the contract, such as the likelihood that using the biofuel to keep the electric company’s existing power plants operating “will displace or curtail existing cheaper renewable alternatives.”
     The PUC also called the proposed biofuel pricing “a mystery to all but a select few,” as it remained confidential to all but the electric company, `Aina Koa Pono, the PUC and the Consumer Advocate. The PUC stated in its decision that the price would have been an estimated eight-figure amount (at least 10 million dollars) in 2015, the first year in which the sixteen million gallons of biofuel could have been produced. “Over the course of the twenty-year contract period, the total estimated cost impact of using AKP-produced biodiesel instead of petroleum fuel will be a nine-figure amount,” (a minimum of 100 million dollars), the PUC wrote.
      According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “Morita has been in the crosshairs for decisions affecting `Aina Koa Pono. … AKP has some highly placed supporters that made this a particularly sticky decision to make, politically. For example, the biofuel company was represented by William Kaneko, Abercrombie’s campaign manager.”
      Morita’s term had ended June 30, 2014, but Gov. Neil Abercrombie kept her on a holdover basis. “We are at a very critical juncture in developing our clean energy future, and the Public Utilities Commission needs stability to continue to address many of the important regulatory issues before it,” Abercrombie said at that time.
      Abercrombie’s decision followed reports that he would perhaps replace Morita after she and fellow commissioners Michael Champley and Lorraine Akiba rejected the two proposed contracts between AKP and HELCO.
     Morita and her husband also were accused of having illegal vacation rentals on conservation property. In response to those allegations, Abercrombie said, “At the present time, Chair Morita has business before the Board of Land and Natural Resources which must be addressed. She will continue to serve in the position while these issues are being resolved.”
Led by Hermina Morita, the PUC twice rejected contracts between AKP and HELCO.
      During a meeting in Pahala with Sen. Russell Ruderman, several attendees urged the senator to garner support for keeping Morita as PUC Chair. Ruderman said he supported her reappointment and that she shouldn’t be punished for turning down AKP. Among those who asked Ruderman to support Morita was local police commissioner Bobby Gomes, who earlier testified against AKP at various community meetings.
      A graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Morita is known for her environmental work at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, Kaua`i Children’s Discovery Museum, Hanalei Community Association and Environment Hawai`i. She was a Kaua`i planning commissioner and a member of the state House of Representatives. As Public Utilities chief, she was involved with the state’s renewable energy initiative and involved in many decisions on which energies are appropriate for Hawai`i.
      “For almost two decades, Mina has been the acknowledged leader in the state’s efforts to reduce dependency on imported oil and to develop local, renewable, and clean energy resources,” Gov. David Ige said when he learned Morita would not seek reappointment.
HEI CEO Connie Lau
      “Mina has been the driving force, both at the Legislature, where she made her mark as the House Energy Committee chair, and at the PUC, behind the policies that have positione  Hawai`i as a national leader in clean energy. She has dedicated her life to creating a better environment and more sustainable communities. I thank Mina for her work. She embodies the values that make Hawai`i a special place.”
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

NEXTERA ENERGY’S AGREEMENT TO PURCHASE Hawaiian Electric Industries includes about $17.2 million for HEI executives, according to a report in Pacific Business News
      If the $4.3 billion acquisition of HEI’s subsidiary, Hawaiian Electric Co., is approved, President and CEO Connie Lau would receive $10.7 million, including $6.8 million in cash and $3 million in equity.
      James Ajello, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, would receive $3.7 million, including $2.1 million in cash and about $1.2 million in equity.
      Chet Richardson, Executive Vice President and general counsel, would get $2.8 million, including $1.6 million in cash and $820,000 in equity.
      The purchase is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year following several required regulatory approvals and HEI shareholder approval.
      See bizjournals.com/pacific.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Former HHSC CEO Howard Ainsley
KA`U RESIDENTS ARE INVITED TO MEET candidates for Chief Executive Officer of East Hawai`i Region of Hawai`i Health Systems Corp., which includes Ka’u Hospital, Hilo Medical Center and Hale Ho`ola Hamakua in Honoka`a. HHSC is recruiting a new Regional CEO to replace Howard Ainsley, who left last summer. The Board of Directors has narrowed the search to three candidates: Ron Morasko, currently employed in Colorado: Verna Stroman Meacham, currently employed in Maryland; and Daniel Brinkman, who has served as interim CEO since Ainsley’s departure. 
      The candidates are on island this week and will be visiting Ka’u Hospital today, tomorrow and Thursday. They will meet the public in the employee dining room between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Morasko is here today, Meacham, tomorrow and Brinkman, Thursday.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

HAWAI`I ISLAND POLICE HAVE IDENTIFIED the man who died New Year’s Eve in a structure fire in the Hawaiian Ocean View Estates subdivision.
      He was identified as 67-year-old Dale Gorrell, of Hawaiian Ocean View Estates.
      The cause of death is undetermined pending toxicology results. Police do not suspect foul play.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

KILAUEA VOLCANO’S DUAL PERSONALITY: A Historical Perspective is the topic at After Dark in the Park today. The free program begins at 7 p.m. at Kilauea Visitor Center Auditorium.

Lei hulu master artist Kilohana Domingo creates a feather lei.
Photo from NPS
KA`U RESIDENT AND MASTER LEI MAKER Kilohana Domingo offers a lei hulu feather work demonstration tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Kilauea Visitor Center lanai in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.

AS PART OF VOLCANO AWARENESS MONTH, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Frank Trusdell presents a program tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at Ocean View Community Center. Trusdell reports on the current status of Mauna Loa, offers updates on Kilauea’s summit eruption and presents an overview of Kilauea’s East Rift Zone eruption, including an in-depth account of the lava flow that has advanced toward Pahoa over the past few months. 
      Call 967-8844 for more information.

KA`U NATURAL FARMING WORKSHOP is coming up Saturday, Jan 17 and 24 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Earth Matters Farm at South Point and Kama`oa Roads. Participants learn about creating soil health & nutritional food.
      $100 for both days includes garden lunch. Register at 939-7510.

JR. VOLCANO CHOY & FRIENDS will host a fundraising outdoor jazz performance from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31 at Pāhala Plantation House on the corner of Maile and Pikake Streets. Funds are being raised to restore instruments at Ka‘ū High School for a music program for Pāhala Middle School students. Suggested donation is $15.

SUPPORT OUR SPONSORS AT PAHALAPLANTATIONCOTTAGES.COM AND KAUCOFFEEMILL.COM. KA`U COFFEE MILL IS OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK.








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