Saturday, October 29, 2011

(Saturday Special) THE LUNATIC IS IN MY HEAD

THE LUNATIC IS IN MY HEAD: Ever since Thursday we've had a nagging feeling we were missing something after reading the article in the local newspaper about Tuesday's Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) board meeting where it was announced that they were going to essentially ignore the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) ruling dismissing of two of KIUC's eight preliminary hydropower permits and throwing the rest into question.

So on Thursday, when we couldn't quite put our finger on it, we decided to rehash the story of the apparently sleazy way KIUC's deal with Free Flow Power (FFP) went down.

But last night it all became clear after we read a Facebook posting by board member Ben Sullivan.

Sullivan for some reason has taken it upon himself to be the spokesperson for the board's insistence that they are not going to abandon the FERC permits or process in favor of what the FERC called the state's "long history of authorizing and regulating hydropower projects."

Last night, in a seemingly tone-deaf statement accompanying a notice for this week's three meetings regarding KIUC's remaining FERC hydroelectric projects, he wrote "I think our approach is a good one, we just have to make sure there is ample communication and that we work together during the evaluation."

"What approach?" we thought. "What communication? The insistence that the FERC process is the right one no matter what anyone says?"

All of a sudden it hit us. Part of the FERC ruling said essentially that they would no longer issue any more permits for the state of Hawai`i. And that makes KIUC's whole stated reason for using FERC in the first place no longer valid.

KIUC has repeatedly said that they had to use FERC because they were afraid someone else would take out preliminary permits and by doing so, under FERC rules, obtain sole rights to develop those projects. That, they said, would have put KIUC over a barrel of having to negotiate with whomever got the permit and buy the power- possibly at an inflated price- denying the coop actual ownership of the facilities.

But now that no one can get one of those preliminary (or final for that matter) permits, nobody can do that anymore so there's no reason that KIUC even needs a FERC permit anymore.

It's that simple.

But there was also one more claim made by Sullivan that flies in the face of KIUC's previous statements regarding the state regulatory process.

It has been a matter of some ambiguity as to whether there is or is not a state "process for approval" of hydropower in Hawai`i. But according to the FERC ruling “Hawai‘i has a long history of authorizing and regulating hydropower projects at the state level,” and has approved 13 projects throughout the state citing a recent one in Wailuku, Maui.

The whole problem with the FERC process, according to Don Heacock and Adam Asqueth- the two aquatic biologists who have been challenging the use of FERC's federal oversight- is that, due to a US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling, the feds apparently have the power to usurp the state's excellent water use laws which protect whole watersheds and ecosystems, regulating stream flow, water distribution and use as well as other essential matters.

KIUC has maintained over and over that they will follow all state regulation and standards in using the FERC process for public participation and decision making, even pointing to a different SCOTUS ruling that they claim may rule out the usurping of state law.

But seemingly contradicting this is another statement made by Sullivan in Thursday’s article.

Sullivan said there are certain advantages to using FERC for permitting.

“One of the them is the cumbersome nature of the state process —and perhaps even the non-existence of a state process — and that’s an important issue we’ve discussed,” he said. “There’s high cost involved in a process that has no timeline for ending, and it’s difficult to know whether it’s in the members’ interest to even engage in such a process. The FERC avenue offers an alternate to that, potentially. It also lays out a process that we can limit, as you have suggested, and I think that it’s something that the staff is constantly working with the state to do.”

So in other words KIUC does NOT necessarily intend to honor all of the state's water laws as they pledged when state water authorities came out against the use of the FERC permitting.

There is apparently some honest- to-god, double-talking bullcrap going on with KIUC (what else is new). If you care, show up for one or all of this week's meetings and tell them to stop the prevarications and misrepresentations, abandon the FERC process and follow the state law... as they pledged they would.

The meetings are scheduled for Tuesday at Waimea Theater, Wednesday at Hanalei School cafeteria and Thursday at Kapa‘a Middle School cafeteria all from 6 to 7:30 p.m.


Donna said...

Under FERC, the KIUC would not have had to be bothered with pesky, state constitutionally based requirements, such as consulting with the indigenous populations affected.
I'd still like to know how much kala us memebers paid FFP to take KIUC down this FERC dead end.
And also, in TGI it says all this hydro has been possible because of "assessments"?
Can the members demand a refund, before our "assessments" have been spent?

Mauibrad said...

Good first point, Andy, about no need for KIUC to worry any more about somebody else getting a FERC permit over them. So presumably the only reason to continue with the 4 preliminary permits is for the orderly process, because they will not result in a final permit, as FERC has said.

As for your second point on Sullivan's long quote, you should keep in mind that he's gotten better over the years, but that Ben sometimes rambles on and says things that don't entirely make sense nor that even he has thought out thoroughly, as in the case of this quote. By his quote it is clear that Ben is still going off of "the line" that KIUC was using before the vote rather than the reality of what the state process IS, and the new reality of the FERC decision. In fact, by Ben's quote, at that time it seems as if Ben had not fully read and assimilated the FERC written decision, although he may have by now. So, don't read too much into a prototypical rambling, arm waving diatribe. Otherwise, good points, Andy.