Editorial: Be careful Molokai, Big Wind still has many political and big business allies

By David Lichtenstein

An excellent story on the true cost of energy in Hawaii appeared yesterday in the Honolulu Civil Beat. This story, along with the recent push to get Senate Bill 2785 through the House of Representatives, has serious implications for Molokai.

The Civil Beat story points out the numerous flaws in a 240-page study done for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The central thesis of the study is that wind energy is the most cost effective large-scale way to produce energy and without a Big Wind project Hawaii won’t meet the mandated 70 percent clean energy by 2030.

On Friday, Hawaii’s House Finance Committee passed SB 2785, legislation that establishes “a regulatory structure for the installation and implementation of an interisland high voltage electric transmission cable system and for the construction of on-island transmission infrastructure.”

Despite hearing testimony from 200 people in opposition to what is being called the “$3 billion undersea cable” proposal, this bill will now be voted on by the full House in the Hawaii Legislator.

The point of this bill is not to approve the controversial measure of installing an undersea cable, but to create a mechanism to reimburse Hawaiian Electric Company for its potential costs. The Public Utility Commission would have to review and approve HECO’s request for a customer surcharge for reimbursement.

If passed, this bill will allow a wind farm development company or HECO to receive cheap financing rates because the repayment of the loan would be guaranteed by utility ratepayers. In other words, customers will be forced to repay the cost for improving an infrastructure that they may not even want or need.

But what is most disturbing about this for the people of Molokai and Lanai is the way Governor Abercrombie changed the language of the bill. Abercrombie had stated, in writing, that, “The project must represent the majority interests of residents of the respective islands.”

But when opposition to Big Wind on Lanai and Molokai became organized around grassroots groups such as Friends of Lanai and I Aloha Molokai, the Governor began to threaten eminent domain action to secure the necessary land for an industrial-scale wind farm.

More recently, Gov. Abercrombie worked to change the language of SB 2785. Originally, it stated in the bill that it is, “the state’s policy that construction of a transmission cable from Molokai or Lanai must be affirmatively requested by the communities on those islands.”

But Abercrombie changed his tune, saying that no community should be allowed to “opt out” of this bill, calling it “undemocratic.” Friends of Lanai is lobbying to reinsert this language so that Lanai and Molokai will have the power to prohibit this project from coming to them.

This month, the Hawaii State Energy Office, part of the Department of Business and Economic Development and Tourism, was supposed to release the results of a federal Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on the feasibility of the undersea cable. DBEDT’s Hawaii Interisland Renewable Energy Program has delayed the release of the PEIS. Calls to the Hawaii State Energy Office were not returned.


14 Responses

  1. Abercrombie thinks lies are a perfectly acceptable political tool. He can be trusted only to pursue his own agenda and even that can change on a whim.

  2. It is important to note that SB 2785 does not mandate an interisland cable and does not establish where it goes. Also I am not sure that Abercrombie was actually the source of language change within the bill. The original language stated the following “ Nothing in this act is intended to require the construction of an interisland cable from the islands of Molokai or Lanai to Oahu unless the communities affirmatively request a cable” It was Pattern Wind which requested a language change to read “ Nothing in this act is intended to require construction of an interisland cable from any particular island” It seems that the intent was to eliminate all islands of the requirement, not just Molokai and Lanai. Despite the Governor’s feelings on the matter, there is no language within this bill stating that “no community should be able to opt out of this bill.” Another issue as pointed out by the Consumer Advocate, is that customers would only pay for cable when and after it is in use, not in the development process.

    • True Steve, it was Pattern Energy, not the governor, who offered the language changed in the bill. The governor supported this change and did make the “opt out” comment, even if it is not in the bill. The point is, the governor is clearly trying to trump any kind of local decision-making authority that Molokai might have.

  3. One more comment in regard to the original wording of the bill- if taken at face value, if the communities of Molokai or Lanai affirmatively requested an interisland cable then the construction of the cable would be required. Regardless of unknown motives, the language needed to be changed to be sensible and stipulate that requirement of construction has no issue within this bill.

  4. His actions and the legislature is NOT a SURPRISE at ALL!

  5. if i had to choose between wind mills or monsanto/microgen being here….i would choose wind mills

    • not exactly the specific subject i made “the devil you knew” comment on a few weeks ago (that was in regards to the killing off of the tax advantage given to the wind industry in washington), but it certainly applies here as well.

    • It is like choosing between the 2 EVILS. Both are not good for OUR environment. And if you chose Monsanto, then I hope you have another SOLUTION to replace the jobs that could be LOSTED. As for the windmills they donot know what effect the cable will have on our ocean life too. There are many IF’s with the windmill project that need to have concrete answers.

      • i geuss jobs is more important than poisioning people with pesticide dust….its monsantos life story

      • Believing in Aloha… It’s almost like the “Adjustment Bureau”, only BETTER!
        Aloha No! Guess What? It also starts, with you!
        Give a Hefty Dose of it to your surroundings. Fill your Space with that Air, and things can only get better.
        Just a little note to uplift, when some hearts shut down and question, Why???!!!??? The Universe in All it’s Love, in Aloha, conspires to help those who truly see that bigger picture!
        Move, Dance, Hula, Kung Fu your thoughts, in Love. It just might make you feel better.

  6. Aloha David, if anything Abercrombie’s responses are varied and a bit confusing. What appears to be a more recent response by Spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz states: “The Governor is willing to consider all options. Any approach moving forward must meet the community’s clear desire, and whether there are necessary funds. Both remain uncertain, thus, any talk of eminent domain power is premature.”????

  7. Looks like Molokai is fine for now, but what about over at Hana? check out a good article on it at

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