Letters for Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kudos to road crewsKIUC and electricity costsAbout the wrongful death settlement

Kudos to road crews

I know that the folks on Kolo Road aren’t happy about the new ‘bypass’ on their street, but I have to say kudos to all of the workers who so very quickly were able to provide this bypass for us and for how hard they are working to get the highway back into a useable condition.

In fact, kudos to all of the workers taking care of the many road problems these recent heavy rains have caused all around our island. Many mahalos.

Michelle Carroll, Kilauea

KIUC and electricity costs

 I read with interest the lead story on page one of Monday’s The Garden Island as to the plight of Kaua‘i’s business owners due to the sky-high cost of electric power on this island. We residential customers share your pain.

We, too, are “served”  by the utility with the highest rates in the nation. Inasmuch as 90 percent of Kaua‘i’s power is derived from fossil fuel, I can not imagine how KIUC’s management continues to use the very most expensive fuel (diesel) being supplied by the highest-priced provider (Chevron).

By KIUC’s own admission, Chevron has monopoly power over the market for power generation fuels on Kaua‘i. Chevron says “jump,” and KIUC must ask, “How high?”

 The principal source of the crude oil Chevron refines on O‘ahu is Indonesia. Indonesian crude oil sells at a 20 percent premium compared to Mainland oil. That expensive oil must also be shipped 7,000 miles versus 3,000 miles or less for product coming from the U.S. Mainland or Canada.

KIUC has had years to free itself from Chevron’s clutches but has done nothing. As a matter of fact, they are in the process of requesting PUC approval for three more years of servitude to Chevron. Why hasn’t KIUC management (past and present) sought to find better alternatives?  

Why not search for a domestic fuel supply, especially since the U.S. is now an exporter of refined petroleum products?

An even better alternative would be the conversion of the Port Allen generating facilities to use much cleaner burning natural gas. Natural gas prices are at a 10-year low, and putting in a LNG (liquefied natural gas) storage and regasification facility would save KIUC members millions of dollars versus the continued use of Chevron’s diesel.

KIUC speaks loudly of its desire to move to renewable energy sources. For all that talk, there has been very little action — save for a single one-megawatt solar farm in Kapa‘a. Other solar power purchases are proposed, but at prices that are substantially higher than what is prevailing on the Mainland. I realize many things cost more here in Hawai‘i, but does that include sunshine?  

KIUC is throwing away so much money at solar, it is no wonder that they were named “Utility of the Year” by a solar industry trade association.  KIUC can only use so much solar power in their mix — that is, unless they figure out how to get the sun to shine 24/7.

They are proposing, however, to tie themselves to fixed prices for the next two full decades — prices that in just a couple of years will be so far above the market as to have everyone saying, “What were they thinking?.”

As to other renewable energy endeavors, all I  have seen is the free flow of co-op money to hydropower consultants, after which more money was spent justifying management’s actions.  

As to smart meters, I have one now, and I am not concerned about radiation hazards or privacy issues. I am, however, concerned about the time and money KIUC has spent trying to jam these meters down members’ throats.

These meters will not save KIUC customers one penny. They will, however, enable new billing methods members may not find to their liking.

Allan Rachap, Koloa

About the wrongful death settlement

Although the deaths of the two women who fell from an unmaintained trail (pig trail) at Opaeka’a Falls are indeed tragic, I am concerned for the precedent that may be set by this $15 million settlement.

I have personally hiked many trails (some  poorly maintained)  on the island, and am well aware of the potential for injury.

However,  I chose to accept personal responsibility for the risks involved in exchange for the reward of experiencing the beauty that Kaua‘i offers. I am also aware of my personal limitations and the need for being properly equipped and understanding the environment I am entering.

Rescues of injured hikers — mostly visitors — seem to be a weekly occurrence on Kaua‘i. If this settlement is approved by the state Legislature, are we to expect an onslaught of future litigation by those who have decided that the state — not themselves — are to blame?

It is easy to see what will come next. The state will simply close public access to trails on state land because of liability concerns. This would indeed be a great loss for residents and visitors alike.

Visitors need to be aware and prepared before venturing out on Kaua‘i’s trails.

Erica Watson, Lihu‘e

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