(BIVN) – Honua Ola Bioenergy employees and members of ILWU Local 142 rallied in Honolulu on Friday, protesting a recent decision by the Hawaiʻi Public Utilites Commission.
On May 23, the Hawaiʻi PUC rejected a Hawaiian Electric request for an amended and restated Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) allowing the utility to buy energy produced by Honua Ola – named Hu Honua, in the legal proceedings – at its biomass facility in Pepeʻekeo. Hu Honua has been seeking regulatory approval for years. The company says the refurbished power plant “is 99% complete and could be ready later this year to begin producing clean renewable bioenergy for 14,000 homes and businesses.”
From a news release submitted by those involved in Friday’s action:
Joining the gathering were a contingent of Honua Ola employees and Hawai‘i Island-based ILWU Local 142 members who flew in this morning to participate in the rally and sign waving. Other unions represented included ILWU International, IBEW 1186, IBEW 1260, Operating Engineers Local 3, Hawaii State AFL-CIO, UFCW Local 480, Laborers Local 368, AFGE, Carpenters Union, Postal Workers Union, and Machinists Union 1998.
Today’s rally was triggered by the 2-1 majority decision of the PUC on May 23 to reject Honua Ola’s power purchase agreement with Hawaiian Electric. PUC Chair James Griffin, who is leaving his position on June 30, 2022, and Commissioner Jennifer Potter voted against the power purchase agreement. Commissioner Leodoloff Asuncion filed a 20-page dissent in opposition to the majority decision stating that Honua Ola had met its burden for approval based on the requirements established by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court to the PUC.
Warren Lee, president of Honua Ola Bioenergy, expressed gratitude for the support of the unions. “The employees of Honua Ola wanted to be heard. We were willing to have them come over and demonstrate to the PUC that this is important for the economy, jobs, renewable energy, and to combat climate change.”
Chris West, President, ILWU Local 142, commented, “Labor has had an integral part in Hawai‘i, and it’s awesome to see such solidarity. Honua Ola is providing good-paying jobs for workers and their families. We are here to support local jobs and to keep our families in Hawai‘i.”
On June 2, Hu Honua filed a Motion for Reconsideration before the PUC, saying the Motion “is justified given (1) the negative impact on Hu Honua’s significant property interest (over $519 million spent in reliance on prior Commission approvals), (2) the loss of hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue for the State for the next 30 years, (3) the continued and prolonged use of high amounts of expensive and price-volatile imported oil, which still makes up more the 60% of HELCO’s energy generation on Hawaii Island, by not allowing Hu Honua’s firm renewable energy to replace that from fossil fuel plants despite Hu Honua being 99% complete and available to operate as early as 2022, (4) the negative impact of maintaining high levels of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions instead of significantly reducing GHG emissions with Hu Honua as evidenced by HELCO and Hu Honua’s expert analysis and testimony which was uncontroverted in the record and the only expert analyses on GHG emissions presented in the proceeding, (5) the negative impact on the State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) goals to reach 100% renewable generation by 2045, (6) the negative impact on the State’s goal of promoting renewable energy in conjunction with agricultural activities, and (7) the other impacts discussed in this Motion.”