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Monday, March 11, 2013
March 11, 2013 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 4:21 PM :: 5476 Views

China Debates Whether to ‘Keep or Dump’ North Korea

Abercrombie for Monopolies?

SEC Charges Illinois for Misleading Pension Disclosures

No cause, no answers 7 months after Kahuku wind farm fire

KHON: Since August, the 12 turbines at Kahuku are at a standstill after a fire inside the facility's battery storage system shut the wind farm down.

Turns out it was the third blaze to break-out inside the building.

"And those we did an extensive investigation and determined the cause of those that was related to the capacitors in the converters," said Wren Wescoatt of First Wind. "We took several steps to remedy that and the new investigation looked into that as one of the possibilities but hasn't yet determined what the cause of the final fire was."

Sen. Gabbard who chairs the Committee on Energy says - no cause is no good.

"I'm a little surprised they haven't found out the cause of the fire, we're still waiting to get results of the investigation, because I think that's a key part of it," said Senator Mike Gabbard (D).

The battery-storage technology was the first of its kind to regulate the flow of power when trade winds aren't blowing.

A system First Wind may decide to ditch.

"We've been working with HECO to remove the battery building, to re-build the control equipment and to get back online and producing as soon as possible," said Wescoatt.

…under a 20-year contract First Wind could face sanctions if the project doesn't get going again.

"There is a possibility that the contract could be terminated somewhere down the road , but our focus in on First Wind to get it back in operation," shared Pai.

2012: Lawsuit: Kahuku Windfarm May Never Get its Turbines Repaired

2010: Xtreme Power: A Pig-in-a-poke For Hawaii Wind Farm

read … No cause, no answers 7 months after Kahuku wind farm fire

Kahuku wind farm safety called into question

KHON:  Work is underway to rebuild, but some want a second look to see if the project is even safe….

"It wasn't just sulfuric acid batteries, it was lead but the main concern, main contaminate of concern was of lead," said Elizabeth Galvez, Health Department, Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office. 

The blaze was so intense, it took days before fire crews were safely able to enter the building.

It was one of the biggest cases the Department of Health's Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response Office has ever had. 

But they left the air, water, and soil sampling in the hands of First Wind.

"They prepared a work-plan with our oversight and hired a consultant to do the sampling," said Galvez.

The sampling came back clean.

"However we feel the DOH should have been the person to contact those different agencies and back charge the developer, rather than the developer choosing his own to go and check. That's like the fox watching the chicken house," said Kent Fonoimoana, Kahuku Neighborhood Board…. 

While the warehouse is gone, the windmills are designed to last 20 years. 

As long they are there, First Wind will shell out $45,000 a year to local groups. 

read … Kahuku wind farm safety called into question

Anahola Rejects Danner Sisters’ Biomass Plant

KGI: If local residents have their way, the Anahola Renewable Energy Project will be stopped dead in its tracks. Project supporters, however, are saying much of the opposition is being fueled by misinformation and rumors.

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is proposing to lease more than 2,000 acres of Anahola lands to Green Energy Team, LLC of Kaua‘i for the purpose of clearing existing albizia trees for its planned biomass-to-energy facility near Koloa.

More than 200 residents, mostly from Anahola, showed strong opposition to the project — concerned that the lease would privatize Hawaiian homestead lands — at a Beneficiary Consultation  meeting held Friday evening at Anahola Clubhouse.

“With this lease, even a blind man can see, we’ll never get our lands back,” Joe Borden, the newly-elected president of the Anahola Farmers and Ranchers group, said prior to Friday’s gathering.

Tempers flared during the event — which lacked any sort of control by the meeting’s organizer, DHHL — with people screaming over one another from start to finish.

“Somebody along the way recommended this as a good deal for Hawaiians,” Anahola resident Shane Cobb-Adams said. “And I want to know who they are … It’s a bad idea.”

The 30-year proposed lease is for 2,143 acres of land belonging to native Hawaiians under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920. If approved, the land would be used for clearing trees and replanting and harvesting biomass feedstock, which would be delivered to Green Energy’s state-of-the-art, $90 million facility.

In an email to all board members of Anahola Hawaiian Homes Association, the president of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Robin Danner, described the behavior at Friday’s meeting as “horrible.”

Pa said only 2 percent of the money generated from the project would go to the beneficiaries, while the rest would go to Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative and Green Energy.

Other concerns raised at Friday’s meeting include the environmental impacts of planting what one person described as “nitrogen-sucking” eucalyptus trees….

The public is invited to comment on the proposed energy project at one of two public hearings on Kaua‘i before the Hawaiian Homes Commission later this week.

The meetings are scheduled for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School in Hanama‘ulu, and Friday at 9 a.m.  at Aston Aloha Beach Hotel in Kapa‘a.

Danner Vision: Akaka Tribe: We Can Kick Out Anybody Anytime for Any Reason

read … Horrible!

Hawaii Commercial-Scale Solar Installations Lose Key Part Source

SA: A mainland company that supplied a key component for many commercial and utility-scale solar photovoltaic projects in Hawaii has gone out of business, leaving its customers scrambling to come up with contingency plans for servicing the devices, which are critical to the operation of PV systems.

An estimated 400 PV commercial projects in Hawaii, including the state's two largest, were built with power inverters made by Boston-based Satcon Technologies Inc., which began liquidating its assets last month after the financially troubled company failed to find a buyer. Satcon power inverters were not used on single-family homes.

There were 18 Hawaii-based companies listed as creditors in Satcon's bankruptcy filing, including ProVision Solar, Hoku Solar, Distributed Energy Partners (which does business as Revolu­Sun), HNu Solar, and GreenPath Technologies. Several mainland companies with PV projects in Hawaii, including SunPower Corp. and SunEdison, also were listed as Satcon creditors.

The state's largest PV project, a 6-megawatt facility developed by Alexander & Baldwin on Kauai, has Satcon inverters. Hono­lulu-based Hoku Solar partnered with an electrical contractor to design and build the project, which has been in operation since late last year. Both A&B and Hoku declined to comment for this story.

Satcon inverters also were used on a 5-megawatt PV project developed by SunPower Corp. on a 36-acre site in Kalaeloa in West Oahu that was completed in December and dedicated at a ceremony on Friday. SunPower officials also declined to comment.

Other sizable projects with Satcon inverters include a 5-megawatt facility being developed in West Oahu by IC Sunshine, SunEdison and Axio; the 1.2-megawatt La Ola facility on Lanai built by SunPower for Castle & Cooke; and a 1-megawatt facility in Campbell Industrial Park built by Hoku Solar for Forest City.

The departure of Satcon means its inverters will no longer be covered by a warranty.

Past is Prologue: Hawaii’s Future? Abandoned Solar Farms Clutter California Desert

WSJ: Satcon Files For Bankruptcy, In A Tough Week For Clean Energy

read … Solar firms lose key source of part

Agency bumps up rebate for solar water heaters

SA: A cash rebate for Hawaiian Electric Co. customers who install solar water heaters will be increased to $1,000 for a limited time in an effort to boost sales of the energy-efficient units.

The rebate, which had been $750, will be available for systems bought starting today, said Hawaii Energy, which administers the state's energy conservation program in Honolulu, Maui and Hawaii counties. Hawaii Energy officials did not say how long the higher rebate would be available.

read … Mo Money

Shine a light on political finances

SA: Here are some of the details of the bills, which passed the House and will next get the attention of the Senate Judiciary Committee:

» House Bill 1147 is aimed at expanding the information available about the money raised and spent in the political sphere and make such reports searchable online on the Campaign Spending Commission website.

Among the most important elements is a new requirement for noncandidate committees (sometimes called political action committees, or PACs) to make more specific disclosures in their political advertisements. They would have to identify top contributors in their ads, so that the public associates the message only with the front organization and not with the monied interests behind it.

It would also make explicit who in the PACs is authorizing advertisements or other communications and clarify the source of the funding.

» HB 1132 would ensure that the public has all the financial facts about officials before crucial lawmaking or other government decisions already have been made.

Specifically, the measure would require state elected officials and a wide range of appointed officials, including Cabinet members and other department administrators, to file a statement disclosing their financial interests between Jan. 1 and Jan. 31 each year.

read … Shine a light on political finances

Great News: Hawaii Gun Control Measures Dead for Season

CB: All but one of a spate of state gun control measures proposed in the emotional aftermath of the shootings died last week. The only measure still in play: a relatively minor one OK’d by the Hawaiian Rifle Association requiring people bringing guns into the state to get a firearms permit.

Others failed, state legislators said, for a variety of reasons mirroring the uncertainties surrounding passage of federal legislation calling for background checks and banning assault weapons. Opposition from gun-rights supporters is one hurdle, but keeping track of who can and can't own guns raises issues around not only gun rights, but privacy rights.

In Hawaii, additional gun regulation also faces the fact that the state has among the most stringent gun laws in the nation, and unlike the mainland, little public urgency to make them tougher. Indeed, a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association last week found that Hawaii had the lowest rate of firearms fatalities in the nation and among the highest number of gun-control laws in the U.S.

“My guess is people are thinking we don’t have the same problems as in the mainland,” said Democratic Sen. Will Espero, about the lack of a push for an assault weapons ban proposed this year. Espero chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee.

“I’m not hearing from my constituents to ban them. I’m not getting many letters or emails. It hasn’t risen to the level of a top priority,” said Espero, who is undecided on an assault weapons ban.

read … Civil Beat Crying over Failure of Agenda

Labor Board Blames Lack of Staff for Slow HSTA Decision

SA: The labor board's backlog and funding problems came to light in Moepono's testimony on the bill, citing concerns about the board's ability to meet a hard and fast deadline.

"Just looking at the (HSTA) case — that went for nine months and the complainant called 26 witnesses," Moepono told the Star-Advertiser. "Had we had a statute that called for action within 30 or even 90 days, we wouldn't have been able to fulfill the requirements of the law. And that not only impacts our office, but the parties would be impacted."

The agency, which typically sees about 75 cases filed each year, had its legal staff cut by three positions in the late 1990s. It has since been running with three support staff members: an executive officer, a secretary and a legal stenographer. The executive officer happens to be a lawyer, but there is otherwise no legal staff.

Moepono said the board's $500,000 budget mostly goes toward salaries, with only about 5 percent pegged for operating expenses.

"There's no cushion," she said. "For example, we don't hire court reporters because we just don't have the money. We tape our hearings and have to refer back to the audio when drafting decisions."

read … Need to get this done in time for next contract

Mainland Homosexuals Target Hawaii for 2013-14

PM: Each state's rank is affected by 9 key factors: neighboring states, LGBT population, current law, state constitution, voters, lawmakers, governors, litigation, and ballot questions. No single factor, by itself, guarantees success or assures failure; but when the 9 factors are analyzed together, after adjustments for legislative calendars and ballot timing, the national road map emerges.

Related: The Overhauling of Straight America

read … 12 States That Will Probably Legalize Gay Marriage in 2013-2014

Gabbard Joins Rand Paul Drone Protest

AP: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard reiterated her stance against the use of drones on domestic soil during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday….

Responding to host David Gregory’s question about whether Congress should debate President Barack Obama’s policy on drones, Gabbard framed her response within her perspective as an Iraq war veteran.

“I come in with first-hand perspective on the value of these counter-terrorism tactics and strategies during the time of war overseas in enemy territory and that being the appropriate place for them — not here on American soil,” Gabbard said. “It is our responsibility to hold hearings because it’s an important discussion that the American people are very concerned about, as are we, and we have to set the parameters for what the measures will be.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder initially stated that President Barack Obama had the authority to use drones to kill Americans on American soil in an extraordinary circumstance such as the 9/11 attacks. Holder later shifted his position in a letter to U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, stating that the government does not have to power to use military force to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil.

Politico: Lawmakers ask Obama to detail drone policy

read … Gabbard denounces domestic drone use on Sunday talk show

Civil Beat Joins Atrazine Hype Squad

CB: For years, Hilo residents’ drinking water has been contaminated with the chemical atrazine — a popular weed killer used on thousands of acres of sugar cane fields that lined the landscape up until a couple of decades ago.

The chemical has tested within safe limits established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But scientists and health advocates are increasingly concerned that atrazine could be harmful to human health at lower levels than previously thought.

And the experience of Hilo residents suggests that the chemical can persist in water years after it's been applied to fields.

The EPA is set to undertake a review of the chemical in June, according to its primary manufacturer, Syngenta. The Swiss-based agribusiness company says that the chemical is safe and has been extensively vetted by the EPA.

But critics hope that federal regulators will tighten restrictions or ban the chemical.

Atrazine has been tied in scientific studies to cancer, changes in sex hormones and birth defects.

“It can’t be used and regulated in a way that human health is protected,” said Tyrone Hayes, a biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who for years has studied the impacts of atrazine on frogs.

Hawaii: 2006 State Report Shows Less than 1 part per Billion in disused ag wells from the 1990s

EPA: level of concern -- 90-day average of 37.5 parts per billion (ppb) of atrazine and its degradates

read … Free Floating Anxiety

Hawaii Would Lose Influence if Electoral College, Senate Reformed

NYT: the basic disparity between large and small states is wired into the constitutional framework. Some scholars say that this is as it should be and that the advantages enjoyed by small states are necessary to prevent them from becoming a voiceless minority.

"Without it, wealth and power would tend to flow to the prosperous coasts and cities and away from less-populated rural areas," said Stephen Macedo, a political scientist at Princeton.

Gary L. Gregg II, a political scientist who holds the Mitch McConnell Chair in Leadership at the University of Louisville, similarly argued that urban areas already have enough power, as the home of most major government agencies, news media organizations, companies and universities. "A simple, direct democracy will centralize all power," he wrote recently, "in urban areas to the detriment of the rest of the nation."…

David Mayhew, a political scientist at Yale, cautioned that the political benefit to Republicans is "quite small as well as quite stable," adding that it is important not to lose sight of small blue states like Delaware, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Vermont. But he acknowledged that small states of both political stripes receive disproportionate federal benefits….

"Nations with malapportioned political systems have lower gasoline taxes (and lower pump prices) than nations with more equitable representation of urban constituencies," two political scientists, J. Lawrence Broz and Daniel Maliniak, wrote in a recent study.

read … Democracy Tested

Investigation on disposal of county records produces no results

KGI: Rapozo said he received a tip over a phone call that two Finance Department employees, using a county truck, drove into Kekaha Landfill, and with assistance from staff at Waste Management (the private company managing the landfill), buried banker boxes full of sensitive documents.

And none of this was logged by the county or landfill staff, he said he was told.

“I am not saying that the allegation is true,” Rapozo said. “But we need to validate or invalidate the allegation.”

But Rapozo was expecting a more thorough investigation from the administration, especially after Dill said he interviewed “some” employees at the landfill, but not all.

“We did do an investigation, perhaps not to the level that you were looking for,” said Dill, adding that it would have helped to get more specific information to follow up on, which wasn’t forthcoming.

Chair Jay Furfaro said is up to the administration to decide how to obtain more information, because the council is prohibited by County Charter to direct the administration on how to proceed on an investigation.

County Environmental Services Officer Donald Fujimoto said he looked at any kind of sensitive documents for the months of January and February, and no one knew of any situation.

But there is no requirement or policy regarding burying of sensitive documents, Fujimoto said. It is purely a service the county provides that has evolved through time, and the county does not assure that documents buried at the landfill will remain confidential, he said….

Another issue was that the documents were allegedly in banker boxes, made of cardboard, which the landfill does not take….

read … Buried Secrets

Deedy Drops Dismissal Motion, Clears Way for State Murder Trial

SA: U.S. State Department special agent Christopher Deedy will withdraw his request for dismissal of his murder charge that was based on his contention that he was acting as a federal law enforcement officer when he fatally shot a Kailua man at a Waikiki restaurant in 2011.

Deedy's attorney, Brook Hart, filed the dismissal request in May last year, but recently notified Circuit Judge Karen Ahn during a private status conference that he would be withdrawing the motion, according to the court file.

The reason was not listed in the court minutes of the meeting. Hart has declined to comment.

Deputy Prosecutor Janice Futa also declined comment on the latest development.

The withdrawal clears the way for the start of what is expected to be a lengthy jury selection and murder trial.

read … Trial Next

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