New & Noteworthy: Thirty-Meter Telescope, Hu Honua — and Save the Date!

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TMT Decision Upheld: Judge Greg K. Nakamura of the 3rd Circuit Court has found in favor of the Board of Land and Natural Resources in a case brought by opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
On April 1, the judge issued his decision upholding the Land Board’s approval of a Conservation District Use Permit for construction of the TMT on a site near the summit of Mauna Kea.

Opponents had argued that their case was similar to that brought by the group Kilakila O Haleakala, which appealed the CDUP awarded by the Land Board for construction of the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope on Haleakala. Although a contested case was held for the ATST, the board did not stay the effectiveness of the permit pending the outcome of the case.

“The present case is distinguishable from Kilakila,” Nakamura found, in that “the BLNR granted a contested case hearing essentially simultaneously with the preliminary grant of the CDUA. The continued viability of the preliminary grant of the CDUA depended upon a final grant of the application after a contested case hearing. Unless and until there was a final grant of the CDUA after a contested case hearing, construction under the CDUA was not to occur.”

Hu Honua, Part I: The liens just keep coming. As we reported last month, suppliers, contractors, and other vendors who had furnished goods and services to the Hu Honua power plant being built just north of Hilo claimed they were owed more than $50 million, according to mechanic’s lien applications they filed in 3rd Circuit Court.

And the total continues to mount. Consolidated Electrical Distributors, Inc., of Delaware, has filed a lien application seeking payment of $321,754.07, plus interest, costs, and attorneys’ fees. Process Equipment, Inc., an Alabama corporation doing business as Process Barron, claims it is owed $389,162.05, plus interest, costs, and attorneys’ fees, for labor, materials, and equipment it furnished to Hu Honua. Together, the two new lien applications push the sum of the creditors’ claims up towards the $51 million mark. If interest accrues at just 5 percent annually, Hu Honua falls further into debt at a rate of $7,000 a day.

To address the many lien applications assigned to 3rd Circuit Judges Glenn S. Hara and Greg K. Nakamura, the parties have agreed that they will all be heard by Judge Hara. A “global” probable cause hearing has been set for August 6, 8 a.m., in Hara’s Hilo courtroom.

Hu Honua, Part II: The Hu Honua plant and dozens of other biomass-fueled plants being built around the country are the subject of a report released last month by the Partnership for Policy Integrity. In the report, “Trees, Trash, and Toxics: How Biomass Energy Has Become the New Coal,” Mary Booth, director of the non-profit and the report’s author, states that although the biomass power industry portrays such facilities as clean and green, “we found that even the newest biomass plants are allowed to pollute more than modern coal- and gas-fired plants, and that pollution from bioenergy is increasingly unregulated.”

“Biomass plants are dirty because they are markedly inefficient,” Booth said in a press release. On a per-megawatt-hour basis, a biomass plant, even one outfitted with the best available control technology (BACT), “emits more nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and carbon monoxide than a modern coal plant of the same size.”

Yet most biomass plants don’t employ BACT by claiming – as Hu Honua does – to be minor sources of pollution. “Minor source prermits are issued by the states and contain none of the protective measures required under federal air pollution permitting,” Booth stated.

A copy of the full report is available on the PFIP website:

Save the Date: On August 29, Dr. Samuel `Ohukani`ohi`a Gon will be the guest speaker at Environment Hawai`i’s annual fund-raising dinner. Gon is senior scientist and cultural advisor at The Nature Conservancy of Hawai`i, and is also highly regarded as a practitioner of Hawaiian chant and protocol. Recently he was named one of Hawai`i’s living treasures.

Tickets to the event, at the `Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo, are $65. A $20 tax-deductible donation to Environment Hawai`i is included in the cost. To reserve a seat, please call 808 934-0115 or email


Volume 24, Number 11 — May 2014


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