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Legislators hear a united opposition to Big Wind

While the movement to oppose Big Wind on Molokai grows stronger and more organized, the message remains the same: Not on our ‘aina!

Three members of the Hawaii Senate Committee on Energy and Environment visited Molokai yesterday to listen to the voices of the people on this controversial issue. Chairman of the committee, Sen. Mike Gabbard, along with committee members Sen. J. Kalani English and Rep. Denny Coffman spent time in Maunaloa, Kualapuu and Kaunakakai and heard a unanimous voice of opposition to both the undersea transmission cable project and the Pattern Energy windmill proposal.

“We have not found anyone in favor of the project,” admitted Gabbard, “but there are people who want more information.”

In July, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission ruled that a new Request For Proposals would need to be issued on the 200-megawatt Molokai project. Proposals are now being accepted.

Lifetime locals and malihini alike spoke with a united voice at the Mitchell Pau’ole Center. Kanoho Helm, an organizer for the local group I Aloha Molokai, spoke forcefully about the opposition to bring as many as 90 400-foot tall windmills to Molokai’s west end. Helm wore his group’s lime green T-shirt along with another 50 or so members. Approximately 150 people in total attended.

“When are you going to get it!” said Helm, addressing the visiting legislators. “It’s just not going to happen … our representatives need to listen to our community.”

Helm cited a recent survey conducted by IAM that shows that over 95 percent of Molokai opposes this project. He used many of the same arguments made to Pattern Energy when they held a public meeting on this issue at the same location on June 22. The damage this project would have on the land, the reef, the water and the local culture far outweighs any possible benefits, said one speaker after another.

Other speakers spoke about the failure of Big Wind projects in other places. Many speakers said that Molokai wants to help find renewable energy solutions for Hawaii, but Big Wind is an inefficient and unreliable energy source and a greater emphasis must be placed on energy conservation on Oahu as well as other resources.

As one speaker after another stood up and passionately presented their reason for opposition, a petition for Governor Neil Abercrombie circulated through the audience. It asked that the governor withdraw the Big Wind project from Molokai.

Adolph Helm discussed the opposition of homesteaders to the original Big Wind project put forth by First Wind four years ago. When it became clear that giant windmills were not appropriate on homestead land, the state Department of Hawaiian Home Land supported that position. “You need to go back to our governor and let him know we overwhelmingly oppose this,” said Adolph Helm.

To let the visiting legislators know how strongly they feel about this, Molokai local Kauhane Adams stood up and said, “Bring ‘em over here, I’m the first person who will go to jail!” Others stood up to say they will follow Adams to jail.

Some speakers wanted to know what the legislators would do about this now that they have heard the overwhelming opposition. Without committing to a position, Gabbard said, “this will help us with our deliberations when the Senate begins.”

Before the public meeting dispersed, one audience member asked for a show of hands from those who oppose this project. Every hand in the Mitchell Pau’ole Center was raised.