Monday, April 21, 2008

Musings: Corporate Influence

The light was slow in coming this morning, seeing as how it had to push its way through a thick layer of gray that blotted out the stars and moon and capped the mountain tops. But that didn’t stop the birds — and Koko and me — from venturing out into a somber dawn.

Eventually we were rewarded with a smear of goldish-pink that reached out and gave the sky a brief flush of pink, revealing patches of blue and the divergent travels of wind-driven clouds. And then it all faded, and the light returned to a brighter shade of gray.

Ran into my neighbor Andy and we got to talking about gas prices. He mentioned he’s using much less gas these days now that he no longer drives to work. Gee, just think how much we could cut our fuel consumption if everybody retired. :)

As oil prices rises — I filled my tank the other day and paid $4.03 for the mid-grade — the push is on to develop alternative energy sources in Hawaii, which is heavily dependent on imported oil to generate electricity.

And that’s prompted some disturbing legislation, most notably HB 2863, which reportedly was written by Castle and Cooke.

I was interviewing Rep. Mina Morita on another subject this weekend and asked if there were any worrisome bills in the Lege and she said yes, this one. She happens to be lead chair on the House side for this bill, which is being pushed by House Speaker Calvin Say.

As Henry Curtis of Life of the Land wrote in an email:

Castle and Cooke has proposed that DBEDT (Dept. of Business, Economic Development and Transportation) and DBEDT alone should have the power to approve any renewable energy project that claims they will build a 200MW facility, regardless of the size they really will build.

DBEDT can override all state and county agencies, run rough-shot over the public, and fast track the approval so fast that they approve it before the EIS is completed, that is, approve it pending their acceptance of the Final EIS.

Gee, this sounds kind of familiar. Remember how DOT called the shots on the Hawaii Superferry exemption, and then the Lege passed Act 2, which had to meet the approval of the HSF executives, so the boat could run before it finished its EIS?

Henry continues:

All public participation is killed. All public hearings are dead. There is no contested case hearing. There is alleged county approval but DBEDT can override any objection.

Biofuel facilities are included as long as the developer first claims to be building a truly massive facility.

Mina’s thought is that renewable energy projects should go through the same scrutiny as anything else.

"If something like this passes, I see another Superferry fiasco. You’re rushing the process. It’s not transparent. You basically have a superstructure saying it’s good or bad, without other agencies weighing in," Mina said.

Larry Geller of Disappeared News, in a post titled “Speaker Calvin Say reportedly plans to screw the environment with corporate-written amendment” summed it up like this:

Isn't that awful? Castle and Cooke writing our laws and the environment be damned? What happened to democracy in Hawaii???

Well, Larry, I think it hitched a ride on the Superferry.

Anyway, Larry’s got all the info on who to contact if you want to weigh on this latest version of lawmaking following the Superferry precedent.

I wonder if state Auditor Marion Higa will consider scenarios such as these when she drafts her final report on what the Superferry is really costing Hawaii.


Doug said...

Representative Morita would have to agree to this (or be replaced by somebody who would) in order for the bill to be passed out of the conference committee.

So, is Morita going to agree to it in the form preferred by the Speaker, or not?

Joan Conrow said...

Mina said the Senate had changed the wording to DBEDT coordinating approval, rather than having unilateral authority to approve, and she felt a little more comfortable with that language.

Anonymous said...

so that means she's 'kinda' supporting the bill. compromise for political expediency!