Thursday, March 22, 2012

Musings: Courageous Choices

Hey, it's a new moon today, a good time to “take advantage of all the resources you have gathered over your experiences here and use them to make courageous choices that shed light upon your world and then within the collective.”

Ah, making courageous choices that shed light. Just think how quickly the world would change if we all did that, for even one day.

But don't be looking for the state House to set an example. It was disappointing to see that although the Senate approved a resolution urging Grove Farm to stay the eviction of its tenants there and work on alternatives, the House Committee on Housing — Rep. Derek Kawakami is a member — deferred a vote. It seems the Land Use Research Foundation — the group that views every restriction on property use as a “taking” — raised objections that made House members nervous enough to send the reso over to the Attorney General for a look-see.

Dave Arakawa, LURF's executive director, worries the resolution “sets dangerous legal precedent by allowing the Legislature to use its powers to influence, intervene and interfere with private contracts between private parties...”

So let me get this straight. It's OK for the landowners, developers and utility that comprise LURF to use their powers to influence, intervene and interfere with the workings of the Legislature — aka big bucks lobbying — but it's not OK for the Lege to use its powers to merely urge a landowner not to screw its tenants and destroy a piece of the island's history.

And of course the lawmakers caved. They know that Grove Farm and LURF is going to put a helluva lot more butter on their bread than the lowly Koloa Camp tenants. But big props to Councilman KipuKai Kualii, who sent in testimony supporting the resolution.

If you've been curious and/or confused about smart meters, you may want to check out the article I just published in Honolulu Weekly. I didn't really know much about the technology before I started doing my research, so I was interested to learn the Hawaii Natural Energy Initiative is doing a project on Maui to test a range of smart technologies, including smart meters.

Which caused me to wonder, if you've got a University of Hawaii affiliate doing a test project, why not wait to learn what works best here in Hawaii before committing to an $11 million investment? But too late — KIUC has already taken the leap.

After talking to Jay Griffin, who is doing the Maui test project, and our own Mina Morita, who chairs the Public Utilities Commission that approved KIUC's smart meter plan, I could see the value of smart technology, in terms of managing the grid, especially as renewables are added.

Still, it's clear we don't know the long-term health impacts of this or any other wireless technology, and as Jay noted, it's something we need to continue monitoring. Of course, whether you trust the feds to do that is another story.... I often hear people saying, you'll get more radiation from a smart phone or WiFi, which may be true, but the point is, we not only choose to use that technology, we can turn it off. That's not the case with mandated smart-meter installation.

And while it doesn't seem the installation of smart meters per se raises privacy issues, the addition of demand-response units and in-home-display units certainly could generate data that people may want to keep private. The question of what information is collected and how it is shared should be publicly debated.

So it doesn't seem unreasonable that people should be given the opportunity to opt-out, which prompted Adam Asquith to seek an injunction to stop the smart meter rollout. It was filed on the day the Weekly went to press, so it's not reported in the article. However, I did include information I got in a March 1 email from KIUC spokeswoman Maile Moriguchi:

“Members will be offered an opportunity to be placed on a deferred install[ment] list until the board comes to a decision on an opt-out program.”

Yet right after the injunction was filed, as I noted in Tuesday's post, KIUC came out with a press release that had CEO David Bissell saying:

]t]he cooperative has said it will indefinitely defer installation of smart meters for the small number of members who are opposed to the technology and submit a formal request.

That prompted Ray Songtree, an ardent critic of smart meters, to leave this comment:

On March 15 Kapaa Library, Bissel never mentioned "indefinite deferred installation,", the concept did not exist on Mar 15. In fact, he said that eventually someone rejecting meters might lose their electricity! That was Mar 15.

Suddenly 4 days later, with their federal grant press release, they come up with a new term... 4 days later!.

This is exactly the sort of fishy stuff that feeds the growing mistrust of KIUC's leadership.

I can understand that if a lot of folks opted out, especially those who are generating electricity through PV systems, it could undermine the grid stability that smart meters are trying to provide. That's where education and honest communication come into play. Unfortunately, KIUC doesn't do well in either area. Jay, on the other hand, spent many hours working with the community on Maui, addressing the exact same concerns that have been raised on Kauai, and in the end, he had more volunteers than he could accommodate.

Adam's complaint also seeks to ensure that no one will be assessed a fee for opting out. That's likely going to be a tough battle, as a ruling by the California PUC already set a precedent for charging an opt-out fee.


Anonymous said...

Smart Meters....follow the money. Fools rush in....but someone will make out "grand"

Grove Farm/ Koloa
By now, you should all know that the people are not running the show in Hawaii, or in the country. The politicians kow tow to those with the "butter"
IF we get people excited and incited to hold violent protests....and get national media attention, then maybe something will change.

Dr Shibai

Anonymous said...

In re Grove Farm/Koloa

Grove farm knows that once everyone is evicted it will be a matter of time before the anger over the situation is gone and all is forgotten.

Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

I wonder, as a coop, do we have the option of doing a vote of no confidence in Bissel? or a recall vote, or anything to get the coop to fire him. Does this coop have a membership driven meansd to get rid of managers or BOD? How many disasters are we going to let Bissel get away with?

Unknown said...

Privacy and KIUC management may be worth discussing, but it is so frustrating to see "health issues" of smart meters coming up again and again. There's just no serious science behind those claims. All double-blind tests show that "sensitive" people are not affected differently by these radio waves.
Here's one of many articles that describe the issue, if you are concerned:

Anonymous said...

Geez, LURF thinks the Manoa Board case applies to the GF resolution? I think their influence is based upon who they represent, not upon the quality of their advocacy.

Anonymous said...

Bissel can be removed.
And a few of those other free-riders too.

Anonymous said...

Ron Kouchi should not have Alan Smith of Grove Farm parked in office telling him what to do and what he wants.

It is beyond the ʻappearanceʻ of impropriety it is impropriety.

And you hit the nail on the head, Joan...all of a sudden it may set a bad precedent? But this type of action does not set a bad precedent?
Smith is a genuine creep. Kouchi too.

Anonymous said...

Alan Smith hasn't worked at Grove Farm for a few years.

Anonymous said...

You can always go off the grid.

Anonymous said...

Is the co op charter on the KIUC web site?

That document should clearly outline how to get rid of a bissel.

Anonymous said...

Like the super ferry kind of national media attention?