It might seem a corporate match made in heaven. Hawaii Electric Inc., including its satellite, Hawaii Electric Light Co., still relies on expensive imported oil, despite developing alternative sources such as geothermal.
Electricity giant NextEra bills itself as a leader in alternative technologies, especially wind power. HEI President Constance Lau claims her company’s shareholders would “realize significant value for their shares” from the proposed $4.3 billion merger.
But both companies, unfortunately, have been known to steamroll over local residents.
Ask Esther Wrightman about NextEra. But she might not answer, on her lawyer’s advice. When NextEra began building a huge wind farm next to Esther’s home in Ontario, she posted a video of a “NEXTerror” crew, as she called them, cutting down a tree containing a bald eagle nest. NextEra pursued a lawsuit against Wrightman for defaming the corporate logo – even after the wind farm was built and Wrightman, her disabled husband and children moved away to Manitoba.
In Wrightman’s video, one NextEra employee tells protesters to blame Canada’s prime minister for permitting the nest’s destruction. Protesters argue the regulatory lapse came from Ontario’s provincial government.
But, obviously, no government protected the eagles, despite their endangered status.
The incident recalls a hearing in Puna several years ago, when resident after resident pleaded with federal EPA officials for protection from not only Puna Geothermal Venture, but their own county and state governments, which they said stood by while they were gassed with hydrogen sulfide and sprayed with caustic soda from well leaks and blowouts. Some noted instruments to detect heavier-than-air hydrogen sulfide were mounted several feet off the ground.
If government can’t protect us, then even a seemingly benign technology such as wind power can become abusive in the hands of a corporate bully. A match made in corporate heaven becomes a match made in HELCO.
Let’s take these public resources out of corporate hands. Consumer-owned electric cooperatives have been around since the early days of the power grid, and they work. It’s time they worked here.
Nobody’s more capable of protecting the people’s interest than are the people themselves.
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