New & Noteworthy: Hu Honua, Endangered Species Lawsuit, and a Coming Event

posted in: July 2019, New & Noteworthy | 0

Hu Honua in the News: On June 6, Judge Greg K. Nakamura of the 3rd Circuit Court in Hilo denied several motions to dismiss a lawsuit against Hu Honua and state agencies brought by Claudia Rohr, owner of a Hilo bed-and-breakfast. Last September, Nakamura had thrown out a similar lawsuit filed by Rohr, but this day, speaking from the bench, Nakamura said there was now a trend to “stricter enforcement of environmental laws” and that the courts should exercise restraint in resolving matters of environmental importance on a summary basis.

He also took note of the state Supreme Court’s May 10 remand of Hu Honua’s power-purchase agreement with the Big Island utility back to the Public Utilities Commission with instructions to take greenhouse-gas emissions into account.

Rohr’s lawsuit seeks to force Hu Honua to comply with Chapter 343 of Hawai‘i Revised Statutes – the state’s environmental policy law – by preparing an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment for the power plant it is building about 10 miles north of Hilo.

In addition to Hu Honua, defendants are the state departments of Health and Land and Natural Resources and several county agencies.

(More details on the hearing are available in our EH-xtra item of June 6, available on our website, environment- hawaii.org.)

On June 20, the Public Utilities Commission reopened the Hu Honua docket. The first deadline in the PUC schedule is July 8, when Hawaiian Electric and Hu Honua are to file an updated power-purchase agreement.

Lawsuit over Hawk, Hoary Bat: Sandra Demoruelle, a longtime resident of Na‘alehu, has sued several Hawai‘i County officials over the construction of a transfer station in the Ka‘u community of Ocean View. The lawsuit was filed on May 29 in federal court in Honolulu.

Work began on the project in March, and, at the time the lawsuit was filed work continued.

Under conditions set forth in the 2008 final environmental impact statement for the project, however, no land clearing was to be done from April 1 through April 31, so as to avoid interfering with the pupping season of the endangered Hawaiian hoary bat, ope‘ape‘a. In addition, to protect breeding of the Hawaiian hawk, or ‘io, if any clearing was to be done in March, the county was to hire a qualified ornithologist to conduct a pre-construction nest search, and if ‘io are present, no land clearing was to be allowed until at least September.

Land clearing actually began in March, Demoruelle says in her complaint, and the contractor was not required by the county’s Department of Environmental Management to have the survey for ‘io done beforehand.

Named as defendants are William Kucharski, director of the county Department of Environmental Management, Allan Simeon, the department’s deputy director, and Gregory Goodale, county Public Works Department director. Also named was David Bernhardt, secretary of Interior. He has since been dismissed.

A scheduling hearing is set for July 29. A request for comment to Kucharski’s office was unanswered by press time.

Save the Date: On November 8, Jeff Polovina will be the featured speaker at Environment Hawai‘i’s annual benefit dinner. Until his retirement, Polovina was senior scientist and chief of the Ecosystem and Oceanography Division of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu, an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Last year, he received the Distinguished Career award from NOAA in recognition of his many pathbreaking contributions to climate and marine ecosystem research.

As in past years, the dinner will be held at the Imiloa Astronomy Center. Details to come.

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