I keep wondering, is KIUC devious, deluded, incompetent or just completely and utterly dense?
I mean, first, it commits the incredible blunder of starting off on the road to hydro development — or, as it insists, the study of its feasibility — without consulting any of the key players. Yet even as the brouhaha brewed, a majority of the Board did not feel a community outreach plan was needed. Result: intense, broad-based opposition, a feeling of being shut out, and formal requests for intervention filed by the County, state Department of Hawaiian Homelands, East Kauai Water Users Cooperative and state Agricultural Development Corp.
In the process, KIUC also knocked aside Pacific Light and Power, a local company already working with the Westside community on a small hydro project there. Result: more opposition, bad feelings, polarization.
Then KIUC tried to convince us that none of the alarming projects outlined in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) permits that it purchased from Free Flow Power were actually going to happen. Or, at least, probably not. Or not any time soon, anyway. Result: mass confusion, suspicion, disbelief.
Confronted with a petition that required it to have a public meeting about its Free Flow contract, it responded by skirting the issue at hand — concerns about the FERC process — and instead reframed it as pro- vs. anti-hydro. Then it limited speakers to three minutes while its officers droned on. Worse, it put attorney David Proudfoot and Board President Phil Tacbian, neither of whom could conceal their contempt, on the dais. Result: anger, frustration, skepticism, more opposition.
Pressed to explain why it chose FERC, it claimed, disingenuously, that the process was required for the Wailua River project, and possibly Hanalei, then upped the ante by saying that if the members didn’t want FERC, they wouldn’t get any hydro at all. Result: anger, confusion, a sense of being bullied, blackmailed, backed into a corner.
Charged with conducting a member vote on the Free Flow Contract, KIUC refused to allow petitioners to draft a statement for the voter guide, and instead sent out its totally biased version of the “pro” and “con” argument. Adding insult to injury, CEO David Bissell actually described it as “fair and balanced,” even though it greatly simplifies and overstates certain points and completely ignores the most important topic, FERC. Result: polarization, frustration, anger, mistrust, confusion, a sense of being shut out.
Finally, as bitter icing on the cake, it’s spending an unknown, though certainly not small, amount of our money to launch an advertising campaign to convince us to vote yes. Result: disappointment, outrage, and a feeling that KIUC has absolutely no sense of ethics or fair play. Even The Garden Island, which has run many a KIUC press release verbatim, ran an editorial yesterday dinging the utility’s leadership for “overstepping its bounds” and “misrepresenting the facts” in the campaign.
So we’ve got KIUC creating, or at least, contributing to, the community’s confusion, opposition, polarization, anger, frustration, distrust and sense of being shut out, even as it’s spending our money to convince us to trust it because it has chosen a process that is clear, transparent, inclusive, efficient, effective and intended to save us money.
In closely following this issue, and KIUC’s baffling behavior in shaping it, I keep returning to my original question: is the utility devious, deluded, incompetent or just completely and utterly dense?
I guess the answer doesn't really matter. Because in any case, it doesn’t bode well for a smooth journey toward the development of community-supported hydroelectric.