KAHULUI – As federal energy officials wrap up a statewide listening tour of sorts this week on potential environmental impacts of achieving Hawaii’s ambitious clean-energy goals, Maui County residents are hopeful their staunch opposition to “Big Wind” has been made clear.
Some Lanai and Molokai residents have attended all six meetings held so far.
“I think the visitors really learned about the breadth and depth of opposition to Big Wind,” said Robin Kaye, spokesman for the community group Friends of Lanai. “All of the comments on Lanai – and I can say that with no reservations – were in opposition to Big Wind on Lanai.”
Representatives with the U.S. Department of Energy, the federal Bureau of Offshore Energy Management and the state’s Energy Office held public scoping meetings this week on Maui, Lanai and Molokai, following meetings on Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island.
The goal of the meetings was to gain public input on potential impacts of a range of technologies that will be considered to help the state reach a goal of 70 percent clean energy by the year 2030 as spelled out in the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. Of that 70 percent, 40 percent will come from renewable energy production, and 30 percent from energy efficiency.
The U.S. Energy Department will be preparing a so-called “programmatic” environmental impact statement for the initiative to help guide future federal funding decisions.
The department in 2010 started the process, but focused only on plans to develop wind farms on Molokai and Lanai, and to lay an undersea cable to send the power to Oahu.
Based in part on feedback from scoping meetings on that plan, the department has revised and expanded the scope of the so-called PEIS to include additional clean energy categories. The review will now look at five broad areas: energy efficiency, distributed renewables, utility-scale renewables, alternative transportation fuels and modes, and electrical transmission and distribution.
No specific projects or sites are being proposed at this stage, said Jane Summerson, who is spearheading the review for the U.S. Department of Energy.
Mark Glick, energy administrator for the state, called the initial scope “a little bit shortsighted.”
“When this effort, in terms of the programmatic EIS, was begun, it was originally targeted toward one segment of how we got to the 40 percent renewable energy, and it was two wind projects on two islands with a cable connecting,” Glick said. “In hindsight, it’s pretty easy for me to say that that was a little bit shortsighted.”
This time around, the review will evaluate “the full range of potential environmental, including cultural and socioeconomic, impacts associated with implementing clean energy activities and technologies on the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu.”
“We need to describe the potential affected environments on an island-by-island basis” in the PEIS, Summerson said.
She cited such examples as recreational areas, hunting, fishing or subsistence areas, and traditional cultural sites that could be affected.
“Anything that helps to characterize your island, your community, the affected environment in a way that could potentially be impacted by one of these technologies,” she said.
Summerson said that information will then be used to analyze impacts and to identify potential mitigation measures that she said could be required during construction, operation or decommissioning of projects.
A court reporter attended the meetings to log oral comments for the PEIS.
Alana Kaopuiki Pellegrino, whose ohana is from Lanai, said Castle & Cooke’s proposed 200-megawatt wind farm in west Lanai would “destroy that part of the island forever.”
She said she does believe renewable energy is important for Hawaii’s future, but that less invasive technologies should be considered.
“The land can’t speak for itself,” Pellegrino said.
Keala Kaopuiki Santos said the wind farm would disturb cultural historic resources and cultural sites, and that it was “unbearable to think of that destruction.”
Kaye with Friends of Lanai said many of those who spoke on Lanai gave comments in Hawaiian. He said one person sang a song in Hawaiian about the uniqueness of the area where the massive windmills have been proposed, while another shared legends of sites that could be impacted.
Lester Wong, with the group Kupaa no Lanai, said the Lanai wind farm would cut off access to areas that residents regularly use for hunting, fishing and recreation.
He said the area currently is open for hunting 24 weeks out of the year.
“If these windmills are to be built on that side, I can’t see that happening anymore,” said Wong, who retired from the Maui Police Department as commander for the Lanai patrol district.
Doug McLeod, energy administrator for Maui County, said he sees the revised scope of the review as a move in the right direction because it moves away from the “narrow solution” of developing wind farms on Molokai and Lanai.
But, McLeod questioned why community opposition has not been a factor in reviewing projects under the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative. He cited concerns on behalf of Mayor Alan Arakawa about a failure to consider community acceptance and benefits in the PEIS approach.
“The people of Molokai, for example, have spoken as clearly as they possibly can every time they’ve been given an opportunity,” he said. “At what point in the EIS process will we just look at the level of opposition in particular communities? If 90 percent of the residents of Molokai oppose Big Wind, is it appropriate to use federal money to support a project there? What about 95 percent? Surely, if 99 percent of the residents oppose the plan, it should not be funded by the federal taxpayer.”
Kanohowailuku Helm – founder of the community group I Aloha Molokai, which was formed to oppose a proposed wind farm for Molokai – said three surveys of island residents have been done.
“There’s been three different surveys, actually, on Molokai, all of which were 90 percent opposed to the wind farm. I mean, enough is enough already,” Helm said. “We don’t want to shout, we don’t want to yell. We’re tired. . . . It’s been stressful on all of our families. It’s been heartache because we know this project is not the right thing to do. . . . We are standing in solidarity with Friends of Lanai and Kupaa no Lanai in opposition to the wind turbines and the cable.”
Glick, the state’s energy administrator, said at the Lanai meeting that if there were “overwhelming opposition” by a community toward a specific energy project, the state would not want to see it happen.
The U.S. Department of Energy will accept public comments until Oct. 9 to be used in completing the draft PEIS. Summerson said the department expects to issue a draft PEIS in 2013 and a final document in 2014.
Written comments can be submitted via:
* Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Online: hawaiicleanenergypeis.com.
* Fax: (808) 541-2253.
* Mail: Jim Spaeth, U.S. Department of Energy, 300 Ala Moana Blvd., P.O. Box 50247, Honolulu 96850-0247.