Friction surrounding the Big Wind project continues, with Hawaiian Electric Co. officials recommending that the Public Utilities Commission deny a petition from Friends of Lanai to intervene in proceedings related to the wind farms.
Friends of Lanai, a community advocacy organization that opposes plans to build a 200 mw to 400 mw wind farm on Lanai that would supply energy to Oahu through an undersea cable, recently petitioned the PUC to become a party to the quasi-judicial deliberations.
According to the petition filed by the group’s attorney, Isaac Hall: “Critical decisions about the size, scope, location and nature of the wind farms are being made in dockets opened before the Public Utilities Commission based upon documents that are hidden, by protective orders, from nonparties before any Environmental Impact Statement is prepared in violation of the law. FOL must be allowed to intervene to participate in this decision-making that vitally affects the group, its members and the island and its environment.”
The petition goes as far as to insist that the original wind farms proposed for the islands of Molokai and Lanai be re-bid. While the PUC ruled that proposals for a wind farm on Lanai by Castle & Cooke and a wind farm on Molokai by Boston-based First Wind violated competitive bidding requirements, the agreements with the developers were ultimately approved. The PUC’s ruling said that it was in the greater interest of the state to go forward with the agreements, but imposed a March 18 deadline for the developers to submit information covering the scope of the projects, their development timeframes and pricing. First Wind missed the deadline after failing to secure land on Molokai for the wind project, and uncertainty has surrounded the projects since.
The letter filed on behalf of Hawaiian Electric by attorneys Thomas Williams and Peter Kikuta says there is no basis for the intervention by Friends of Lanai; that it’s much too late for them to intervene and it would unduly delay proceedings; and that Friends of Lanai has other venues in which to express its concerns. The letter sited examples in which Friends of Lanai had expressed its views to the legislature, environmental groups and at meetings concerning the project’s environmental impact statement.
However, Robin Kaye, leader of Friends of Lanai, told PBN that whether other outlets were available to express their views was “really irrelevant.”
“The decisions we are seeking can only be made by the PUC,” said Kaye, adding that the group’s interests had not been given adequate weight in making determinations about the wind farms. “That’s partly why we are asking to start [the bidding process] all over.”
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