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Friday, May 10, 2019
Biomess: Hawaii Supreme Court Overturns PUC Approval of Hu Honua
By News Release @ 4:26 PM :: 1815 Views :: Hawaii County , Energy, Environment

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF HAWAI`I

In the Matter of the Application of HAWAI’I ELECTRIC LIGHT COMPANY, INC.

For Approval of a Power Purchase Agreement for Renewable Dispatchable Firm Energy and Capacity. SCOT-17-0000630 APPEAL FROM THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION (Docket No. 2017-0122)

MAY 10, 2019

RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ. 

OPINION OF THE COURT BY RECKTENWALD, C.J. 

This case arises from the Public Utilities Commission’s approval of an amended power purchase agreement (Amended PPA) between Hawai’i Electric Light Company, Inc. (HELCO) and Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC.

Pursuant to the Amended PPA, Hu Honua would construct and operate a biomass-fueled energy production facility, and HELCO would purchase energy from the facility. Life of the Land (LOL), an environmental nonprofit organization, sought to intervene as a party in the PUC’s proceeding in order to address the environmental impacts of the proposed biomass facility.

The PUC denied LOL full party status, but granted LOL limited participation in the proceeding. The PUC ultimately approved the Amended PPA without holding a hearing. LOL directly appealed the PUC’s order granting it limited participation in the proceeding, as well as the Decision and Order approving the Amended PPA (2017 D&O), to this court.

LOL argues that the PUC:

(1) failed to explicitly consider greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in determining whether to approve the Amended PPA, as required by state law;

(2) denied LOL due process to protect its interest in a clean and healthful environment by restricting its participation in the proceeding; and

(3) abused its discretion and violated due process by denying LOL full party status in the proceeding.

In addition to disputing these allegations, the PUC, HELCO, and Hu Honua contest this court’s jurisdiction over the matter. As a threshold matter, we hold that this court has jurisdiction to consider LOL’s appeal.

We further hold that the PUC erred by failing to explicitly consider the reduction of GHG emissions in approving the Amended PPA, as required by statute, and that the PUC denied LOL due process with respect to the opportunity to be heard regarding the impacts that the Amended PPA would have on LOL’s right to a clean and healthful environment.

Finally, we need not resolve whether the PUC abused its discretion or deprived LOL of due process by denying it full party status in the proceeding.

Accordingly, we vacate the 2017 D&O and remand this matter to the PUC for further proceedings.

---30---

PDF: Court Opinion

Background: SCOT-17-0000630  

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