Letters for Tuesday, June 21, 2011

• Point-counterpoint


These are some of my responses to JoAnn Yukimura’s guest viewpoint in Monday’s edition of The Garden Island:

“The KIUC ballot issue is one of the most important issues facing our community.”

I agree. As such, it should have been prepared with fairness, allowing both sides an opportunity to articulate the “pros” and “cons.” In debate, the affirmative and negative teams have the privilege and the option to analyze, discuss, prioritize and present the merits and strengths of their respective arguments. This was not the case with the ballot which was prepared prior to the meeting held on June 4. There were opportunities, suggestions, and recommendations made at that meeting and after that meeting for mediation and arbitration arrangements and for the slight postponement of time to allow for both sides to hammer out what would be “fair and square.” KIUC also used the analogy that this controversy is akin to opposing views (i.e.. the different perspectives taken by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party). That being the case, “one party does not take the financial responsibility to ‘pay for’ what the other party thinks. Therefore, KIUC does not feel obligated to present the other party’s point of view. There were independent videographers who have documented evidence of this stance taken by KIUC.

Question: Was this a fair and “pono” way for KIUC to move forward with the ballot as prepared and circulated?

You pointed out: “By owning the hydroelectric power source, KIUC will not be beholden to a third-party, for-profit company that could raise prices over time…”

While that may be true, the following concerns have not been fully explained or explored:

a. What about the “monopolization of water resources”? Should KIUC successfully establish a hydro-power ownership of utilizing our water resources (rivers, streams, irrigation ditches, reservoirs, etc.) how does that resonate with our state laws which state that water belongs to the people? Were there not issues raised on this previously with regard to our sugar plantations decades ago?

b. What about the free-enterprise system which allows for competition in any given field? What about existing hydro-systems or those which were considering supplying hydro-power to KIUC?

Question: Isn’t this opening the door for a series of litigations which may be exacerbate the cost factor because of the way this approach is being forwarded?

You pointed out: “… the most recent Supreme Court case supports the supremacy of a state’s minimum stream flow requirements.” Your statements continue with: “…David Bissell [has stated] that after KIUC does its due diligence and proposes a project, it can withdraw from the FERC process if that is in the ratepayers’ best interest.”

But, you do not provide how the ratepayers’ best interest will be determined. Already, KIUC has taken the stance that if those opposing what KIUC has already taken on as a plan of action opposes, “they” belong to the “other party.” Already, KIUC made the decision to move forward in spite of suggestions and recommendations to proceed fairly with the wording of the ballot. Where is the trust factor of KIUC willing to work with the representation of ratepayers (who support hydro-power pursuits) but are being labeled as opponents?

You pointed out: “Bissell has also said…that KIUC cannot and will not proceed without landowner permission.”

When the representative from Gay & Robinson presented his testimony at the June 4 meeting, there was clear indication that G&R has reservations about the KIUC-FFP FERC approach. On May 23, 2011, the Department of Hawaiian Homelands already filed an intervention on the “possible encroachment of our waters.” Pacific Light and Power LLC has also filed for an exemption from the FERC process. If such evidence already exists that there is resistance from private land owners and from entities entrusted with public lands, KIUC still wishes to utilize the FFP-FERC approach.

You provide the rationale: “The good news about the FERC process is that it gives priority to KIUC over for-profit hydroelectric developers.” You continue with the statement: “…KIUC has a chance to assess the sites, consult with water users and develop proposals on behalf of us ratepayers.”

You don’t point out, however, that KIUC hopes to get that priority through the MOA signed with FFP-FERC. … What about wetland areas? What about forest reserves? What about the ways in which water flows from private lands to public lands and vice versa? What about the ways in which the wild-life will be impacted? What about the hunters, gatherers, and cultural exponents? What about the proponents of pastoral and agricultural lands dependent on water resources being consulted? Why were not the farmers on the island (especially the array of independent, local farmers) not given the opportunity to voice their concerns up front? Did we have to wait for a licensing grab with a federal approach to “safeguard” KIUC to have sole ownership? Is that the “pono” way?

Question: In what ways is it in “our best interests” if such litigative actions are in place with the possibility of more to come, shouldn’t KIUC have done it’s homework when the alternative energy portfolio was started years ago?

There is much more, but I will close with this: You pointed out: “A ‘no’ vote could set hydroelectric development back for many years-a delay we cannot afford. No one disputes that a ‘no’ vote will cut the contract between KIUC and Free Flow Power. Not only will this cost ratepayers some $300,000 in costs related to contract cancellation, it will deprive KIUC of a partner with expertise and building hydroelectric plants.”

By your own statement, you pointed out that a “no” vote “could.” That means that it doesn’t necessarily mean that it would, should, or shall set hydroelectric development back for many years. It is only a possibility. To this I say, KIUC should have more than one plan to pursue hydropower. Why should there be the “my way or the highway” approach? If the mistake was made to engage FFP-FERC, I see the loss of $300,000 being less costly than the possible series of litigations that might take place. You speak of FFP as a “partner with expertise and building hydroelectric plants. Free Flow Power was created in 2007. What, specifically is the expertise of that company? Specifically present the documented evidence of how many in that company have had “hands on” experience and/or the academic and technical credentials. Which hydroelectric plants has Free Flow Power actually built as a company? Please present that evidence.

I could go on. Suffice it to say, I have simply brought additional thoughts to the table.

I realize that there are points and counter-points to any controversy. That being said, I conclude with the following:

a. There is a “pono” way to move forward.

b. The process must be fair.

c. We live in a free-enterprise system.

d. We have water laws considered to be “the best in the world.”

e. “To err is human; to forgive, divine.”


Jose Bulatao Jr., Kekaha


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