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Monday, September 14, 2020

Life of the Land


Life of the Land is a 501(c)3 charitable organization founded in February 1970.

Donations are tax-deductible

Life of the Land is Hawai`i’s own energy, environmental and community action group advocating for the people and `aina for over 50 years. Our mission is to preserve and protect the life of the land through sound energy and land use policies and to promote open government through research, education, advocacy and, when necessary, litigation.

Life of the Land supports sustainable agriculture, affordable housing, non-combustion-based energy, and a progressive economy.

Life of the Land asserts that every energy project has positive and negative economic, environmental, social, cultural, geographic, greenhouse gas, taxpayer ratepayer impacts, unintended side-effects, cumulative impacts, and other externalities.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Net Zero Games

For illustrative purposes, assume that a tree has a lifespan of 100 years.

The tree absorbs more carbon dioxide as a mature tree and less as a sapling or when it is old.


CO2 absorbed per year

Total CO2 absorbed



















One form of math: After 50 years the tree has absorbed 210 units. The tree is chopped down and burned, releasing the 210 back into the atmosphere. 

The tree is replaced with a new tree which in the next 50 years absorbs 210 units from the atmosphere.  

Since 210 was chopped and 210 planted, they cancel out over a period of 100 years and the operation is net-zero.

The second form of math: If nothing happened then 400 units would be absorbed over 100 years, but because of the tree operation only 210 was absorbed resulting in a loss of 190. 

In addition, the tree operation involved diesel farm equipment, transportation fuels, and wood chipping. Thus, the loss is much greater than 190. 

This is called net-zero because it sounds good, and besides, the term isn`t defined.

The third form of math: A biomass company signs a contract with an electric utility to produce tree-based electricity. 

In addition to the second form of math, the biomass company claims that it signed unknown contracts with unknown companies to plant unknown trees in unknown places. 

The biomass company claims that a plan exists, but there is no oversight, monitoring, or evaluation of any actual planting by any regulatory agency or any public review. 

This is called net-zero perhaps because it takes an IQ of zero to believe that a litigant-oriented, greed-based company, that relies on public relations to persuade regulators, should be trusted.

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Monday, June 22, 2020

Hu Honua Pleading For Approval of Climate Destroying Project


The Star-Advertiser is now on-line. Looking for the digital edition of the paper? View Print Replica page flip now.

Island Voices: Hawaii island needs Honua Ola Bioenergy’s firm power now (Honolulu Star-Advertiser, June 22, 2020)

 By Derek Kurisu

“Like many on Hawaii island, I have been following the developments related to Hu Honua (also known as Honua Ola) closely and with anticipation.”

Derek Kurisu`s younger brother Duane Kurisu sits on the Board of Directors of Hu Honua which now sometimes calls itself Honua Ola.

“We were happy when the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the original power purchase agreement (energy contract) with Hawaiian Electric in 2013 and again the amended energy contract in 2017, allowing construction at the plant to resume, providing hundreds of construction jobs for workers in the building trades.”

The PUC does not control construction but rather if and when HELCO can purchase the electricity produced by Hu Honua.

“It looked like we were on our way to replacing fossil fuel generation with locally sourced clean renewable energy, launching a new agricultural industry, and seeing hundreds of permanent jobs created for at least the next 30 years.”

A hundred is a stretch. The growing and harvesting of the trees iare not being done by Hu Honua but rather by secretive companies related to Hu Honua.

“These would be good-paying jobs and careers employing local people to run the facility, harvest and transport trees to the plant, and grow new trees, giving us a homegrown source of renewable and sustainable energy, while reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) and the volatile cost of imported oil, now used to power our grid.”

The reduction or increase in greenhouse gas emissions are dependent upon the GHG accounting system used. Hu Honua uses a system that claims their plant is defined to have zero greenhouse gas emissions.


“Then, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled the PUC had failed to sufficiently consider GHG and sent the matter back to the PUC to consider GHG.”

 The Supreme Court did not only address greenhouse gases but rather all externalities.


“That was more than a year ago. The plant, which is nearly complete, could be producing power and jobs by the end of 2020 if the PUC will complete its review of the matter, now on pause since early March. Only post-construction state and county approvals remain and are expected to be issued shortly after construction is pau.”

The Department of Health has not approved the underground injection well system.


“In a recent letter to Hu Honua on the PUC website, the PUC said it was going to take more time to consider new Hawaiian Electric solar projects, which the PUC instructed the utility to solicit in 2019.”

There are proposals to build solar, geothermal, biomass, and storage on Hawai`i Island. The winner should be the entities that can best meet the needs of the population not the needs of out-of-state developers.


“Intermittent solar and wind can be added to the grid, but only if a firm source of power is available when the sun doesn’t shine, or the wind doesn’t blow. The question is, do we want that firm power to come from imported fossil fuel oil or a locally grown clean, renewable source, like the abundant biomass Honua Ola plans to use?”

The analysis is dated. Solar plus storage is firm and a lot cheaper than biomass.

 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Staff Report 

Data derived from Velocity Suite, ABB Inc.,  and The C Three Group LLC.

Percent Penetration of New and Expanded Facilities

Jan-Apr  2019

Jan-Apr 2020

5/20 – 4/23 Est.

Natural Gas
















Nuclear, Oil, Water, Geothermal Steam, Waste Heat








Total (MW)




“If we are serious about moving the state toward 100% renewable energy on the grid, we must start replacing oil with firm renewable energy technologies such as biomass.”

Many people recognize that biomass is not always renewable, regardless of how state law defines it.


“If the PUC wants to move quickly on projects that will address the serious unemployment on the Big Island, Honua Ola is the only project being considered that can do so this year.”

The PUC deals with utility regulation, not employment. The PUC is concerned with lowering the high cost of electricity while maintaining reliability and increasing resilience.


“The new solar projects being considered by the PUC won’t be available until late 2023 at the earliest, and while they may provide temporary construction jobs, they won’t be long-term permanent ones.”

The biomass jobs will be fixed to a location while the solar jobs will move from project to project.


“The PUC green-lighted the project when it approved the power purchase agreement, and Honua Ola’s owners spent hundreds of millions of dollars to bring the plant online. Now, the PUC indicates it may not move immediately on Honua Ola but would like to consider newer projects that have only recently been proposed.”

Any developer who builds a project before securing all of the final permits necessary to operate their facility assumes all liability and all financial risk. 


“This makes no sense from any standpoint — job creation, basic fairness or increasing renewable energy, while reducing fossil generation.”

Au contraire, granting a permit simply because a developer built something without final legal authorization is lunacy.


“Slow walking this case, while the company is burning through millions of dollars to keep the existing plant’s staff working and the plant maintained and ready to operate, sends a bad message to those thinking about doing business in our state.”

The message sent is this, responsible companies are welcome, others should leave. Furthermore, anyone can say they are losing millions while refusing to disclose financial statements.


“State agencies should be doing everything possible to encourage job-creating projects, especially those that benefit the environment. The last thing we need during the current crisis is to discourage business investments on our island and elsewhere in the state.”

Clear-cutting the lungs of the planet during the climate crisis is hardly something that will benefit the planet.


“Others with the funds to help Hawaii will have second thoughts when they see projects get a green light from state agencies and spend hundreds of millions of dollars, only to have the agencies change their mind or threaten the project’s financial viability by prolonged delays.”

There were a record number of bids received in the recent Hawaiian Electric Company request for renewable energy proposals, and a record number of bids approved.

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Friday, June 12, 2020

Life of the Land Intervenes in Public Utilities Commission Review of HECO Companies Fuel Contract

Posted on June 12, 2020

Life of the Land filed the only two Hawai`i climate change appeals to the Hawaii Supreme Court. The court upheld both appeals, sending them back to the Commission for further proceedings.

Hu Honua

Hu Honua proposes to clear-cut forests, turn the trees into wood chips, and burn the wood to generate electricity.

The Public Utilities Commission approved the HELCO-Hu Honua Power Purchase Agreement.

The Hawaii Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Commission in May 2019.

The Commission re-opened the proceeding and asserted that Life of the Land could address all issues in the original proceeding, as well as the new issue involving lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. The issues include financial cost, air pollution, and water pollution.

Gas Company

The Gas Company proposed importing fracked Liquified Natural Gas from Canada and the U.S. Continent.

The Gas Company filed a rate case application. Life of the Land (LOL), Hui Aloha 'Aina O Ka Lai Maile Ali`i (KLMA), and 350 Hawai'i filed timely motions to intervene. The Commission`s decision ignored climate change issues.

Only LOL and KLMA appealed the Commission decision.

The Hawaii Supreme Court remanded the case back to the Commission on June 9, 2020. The Commission will re-open the proceeding to address climate change, public trust, and Native Hawaiian issues.

GHG Analysis

Recognizing that the Commission must address climate change, the Hawaiian Electric Companies filed greenhouse gas analysis in Power Purchase Agreement proceedings: AES West Oahu Solar, MECO-Peaahu Solar, HELCO-Hu Honua, and HELCO-Puna Geothermal Venture; and also in HECO`s proposed acquisition of the U.S. Army`s Oahu Electric Distribution Systems, and HECO`s proposed East Kapolei II 12kv Overhead to Underground/Overhead Project.

Par Hawai`i

Par Hawai`i owns the only two refineries in the State. One was formerly owned by Chevron and the other was formerly owned by Tesoro.

Par Hawai`i informed the HECO Companies that they must renegotiate their fuel contract quickly or be cut off from receiving any fuel.

HECO, MECO, and HELCO filed an application for approval of the First Amendment to Petroleum Fuel Supply Contract with Par Hawaii Refining on June 9, 2020.

HECO`s filing stated, Par’s demand places the Commission, the Consumer Advocate and the Companies in a very difficult position requiring the negotiation and review of the First Amendment on a very tight timeline.

The filing was included in the Commission`s Daily Activity Report email blast sent out on June 10th at 4:31 pm. The intervention window is 20 days. Life of the Land filed a motion to intervene on June 11 at 7:25 a.m.

Hawaiian Electric received a letter from Par alleging that it has a contractual right to request a renegotiation of the existing Petroleum Fuel Supply Contract on April 29, 2020.


HECO Application

Par contends that its request is based on dire financial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Par represents as follows: Impacts from the pandemic include a decrease in fuel demand resulting in historically low or negative margins on Par products. Specifically, government orders addressing the pandemic have had a significant economic impact on Par under the terms of the Contract, and the continued adherence to the Contract is creating significant financial hardship. The pandemic has resulted in drastically reduced ground and air travel throughout Hawai`i, the United States and the world.”

The recent events have had a direct impact on Par’s sales margin to Hawaiian Electric for the LSEO under the Contract, which led to the shutdown of Par’s crude unit at Par West on March 23, 2020. On March 25, Par announced production reductions and turnaround deferrals. On May 5, Par implemented a furlough of 29 employees in response to the decline in throughput rates at its refineries. Without Par West, Par cannot sustainably locally produce the full volume of LSEO required by the Companies and will have to import barrels of LSEO to meet demand.


While the [HECO] Companies dispute that Par has the contractual right to demand renegotiation or justifiably terminate the Contract, the Companies believe there is real and present risk that Par will follow through and terminate the Contract, rightfully or wrongfully, in the timeframe stated.


Thus, while reserving all rights, the Companies began negotiations with Par in an attempt to agree on a potential Contract amendment and avoid protracted litigation and potential fuel supply interruption that would materially impact and threaten the Companies’ ability to continue providing service to its customers. Under the current economic and emergency health and safety circumstances, the risk of fuel supply interruption due to a contract dispute is simply untenable.


Aside from whether Par has a right to renegotiate or terminate the Contract, the Companies have no basis to dispute that Par is suffering significant negative economic impacts as a consequence of the pandemic.

The Companies believe that approval of the First Amendment is in the best interests of customers, as it will maintain a secure source of fuel for electricity generation with pricing at or below alternative fuel procurement sources.


Par agreed to lower the LSFO carbon residue specification from 15.0% to 12.0% under the First Amendment, which under the current Contract would have added  significant cost. Carbon residue is important regarding the Companies’ compliance with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.”


Par has also agreed to retain the existing prices under the Contract for those fuels other than LSFO, provided Hawaiian Electric signs the First Amendment and the First Amendment is ultimately approved by the Commission. Par represents that it would otherwise cancel the entire Contract. The significance of this measure is that the fuels for the neighbor islands will not be subject to new pricing if Par and Hawaiian Electric reach agreement on, and the Commission approves, the First Amendment.


In addition, the First Amendment allows the Companies to give notice of termination of the LSFO portion of the Par fuel supply contract by August 06, 2020, which gives the Companies an opportunity to conduct an RFP to test the market for other LSFO supply opportunities. A termination made pursuant to this opportunity would be effective 120 days later or a date mutually agreed upon by both parties. The Companies issued an RFP for LSFO on June 5, 2020 to evaluate potential LSFO supply alternatives to the First Amendment.

Life of the Land

Life of the Land filed a motion to intervene

HECO asserted that the fuel amendment does not need a greenhouse gas analysis.

There are significant greenhouse gas emissions associated with the extraction of petroleum and its refining.

Life of the Land desires a full greenhouse gas accounting of the different options available.

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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Hu Honua Update

Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission

“Each person has the right to a clean and healthful environment.” The clause was proposed by the Hawai`i Constitutional Convention of 1978 and approved by the voters in November 1978. It is now Article XI Section 9 of the State Constitution.

The Constitutional Convention committees did not mention climate change. That issue rose to prominence as the Kyoto Protocol was being debated in the late 1990s.

The Hawai`i Supreme Court upheld Life of the Land`s appeal of the Public Utilities Commission approval of the Hawai`i Electric Light Company (HELCO) Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Hu Honua BioEnergy LLC in May 2019.

The high court held that Life of the Land had a constitutional right to a “clean and healthful environment” and the Public Utilities Commission has a legal obligation to examine climate change.

Hawai`i Revised Statutes (HRS) §269-6  defined the Commission`s general powers and duties.

“The commission shall explicitly consider, quantitatively or qualitatively, the effect of the State's reliance on fossil fuels on price volatility, export of funds for fuel imports, fuel supply reliability risk, and greenhouse gas emissions. 

"The commission may determine that short-term costs or direct costs that are higher than alternatives relying more heavily on fossil fuels are reasonable, considering the impacts resulting from the use of fossil fuels.” (HRS §269-6)

The Commission re-opened the HELCO-Hu Honua Power Purchase Agreement proceeding to consider all aspects of the proposed contract including greenhouse gases.

“Given the interconnectedness of the issues in this docket, including new Issue No. 4 [greenhouse gases], established by this Order, the commission finds that for this specific docket, it would be beneficial for all Parties and Participants to address all issues set forth for this docket.”

An unresolved issue is what can or must be considered.

Hu Honua wants to burn wood chips. Burning wood has higher emissions than burning fossil fuel.

The Department of Health regulates all emissions including toxics and greenhouse gases.

The Public Utilities Commission evaluates projects based on their relative impacts.

The Public Utilities Commission has a 30-year history of sporadically considering non-greenhouse gas environmental impacts of utility projects, and to a lesser extent, greenhouse gas impacts of utility projects.

Are all emissions or only greenhouse gas emissions on the table? The parties and participants in the proceeding disagree.

The Public Utilities Commission must write a thorough decision and order that addresses this issue. The losing side may appeal the proceeding back to the Hawai`i Supreme Court.

This is just one of several contentious issues that the Public Utilities Commission will be included in its decision.

The second issue addresses agriculture and farming.

The 2009 state legislature wrote a very small and confusing bill which became HRS §269-27.3.

“Preferential renewable energy rates; agricultural activities. 

“It is the policy of the State to promote the long-term viability of agriculture by establishing mechanisms that provide for preferential rates for the purchase of renewable energy produced in conjunction with agricultural activities. 

“The public utilities commission shall have the authority to establish preferential rates for the purchase of renewable energy produced in conjunction with agricultural activities.
“Upon receipt of a bona fide request for preferential rates for the purchase of renewable energy produced in conjunction with agricultural activities, and proof that the renewable energy is produced in conjunction with agricultural activities, a public utility shall forward the request for preferential rates to the public utilities commission for approval.”

The first request to use this section was for the highly contentious and ultimately failed Anaergia proposal for West Maui. Hu Honua filed the second request.

This law was written so that farmers could have a second revenue stream: crops plus energy sales. The added revenue would go to farmers.

Hu Honua wants it to be applied to their operations.

Hu Honua is part of a complex structure of inter-related companies that Hu Honua has refused to discuss in the Public Utilities Commission proceeding.

Two entities signed contracts to lease forests from Parker Ranch and Kamehameha School. One of those two entities will do all the chopping of trees and the re-planting of trees. That entity will then sell wood to Hu Honua.

Is Hu Honua an agricultural company?

If you buy a Christmas tree from a local store, which in turn requires someone to plant another tree for another future sale, are you a farmer?

Or is Hu Honua engaged in an agricultural activity because some entity related to them is engaged in an agricultural activity?

The documents are hidden behind a wall of confidentiality. Life of the Land has been allowed to review some of them.

Tawhiri, owner of the South Point Wind Farm is a participant in the proceeding but not privy to these documents.

Are all emissions, or only greenhouse gas emissions, that can be assessed in this proceeding?

Both emissions are regulated by the Department of Health.  

The Public Utilities Commission must figure out a way to address the issue. The losing side may appeal the proceeding back to the Hawai`i Supreme Court.

The third issue is what to compare the Hu Honua project to renewable energy facilities or fossil fuel generators?

The Consumer Advocate and Life of the Land note that recent solar plus battery contracts are far cheaper than Hu Honua.

Hu Honua asserts that it produces power 24/7 which renewable can`t do.

But is that relevant anymore? Can storage provide power on demand? Can the rate be designed to encourage customers to use solar and wind energy when they are available? These issues are being delved into in open dockets before the Public Utilities Commission.

Still another issue is the Waiver from Competitive Bidding. The Hu Honua project was given an exemption in 2008.

Should it continues to have effect? The Commission may have never rescinded a Waiver before but has asked parties to address the issue.

A new issue was recently raised by Hu Honua. Because Parker Ranch and Kamehameha School planted trees with the intent to harvest them, they pre-sequestered the carbon that will now be released by burning them.

Hu Honua is not causing climate change, it is merely returning carbon to the atmosphere that was originally in the atmosphere.

The Hu Honua plant is 95% complete. Hu Honua believes that as long as they are able to slowly finish the rest of the construction, and end it just as the final approval is locked in place, they may be able to get a $150 million federal Investment Tax Credit.

Jonathan M. Jacobs, a Hu Honua witness, filed testimony with the Public Utilities Commission in January 2020. Regarding completion of the Hu Honua BioEnergy (HHB) facility.

The completion of the HHB plant has been delayed but I have been told it is anticipated to be completed during the summer of 2020.”

“It would be very difficult for a wind or solar resource to do so, and it is very unlikely that any firm dispatchable renewable resource could be in place by Hu Honua planned online date later in 2020.”

“We understand that Hu Honua is planning to begin operation in mid-2020.”

HECO, MECO, and HELCO are currently reviewing 75 proposals for renewable energy, energy storage, of other  options for O`ahu, Maui, and Hawai`i Island.

The Public Utilities Commission must determine whether the Hu Honua proposal is reasonable and in the public interest.

Apr 8
Hu Honua BioEnergy LLC registered with DCCA
July 16
Hu Honua Waiver from Competitive Bidding
(docket no. 2008-0143)
Nov 14
Decision and Order
Aug 30
Power Purchase Agreement
(docket no. 2012-0212)
Dec 20
Decision and Order No. 34726
May 9
Amended and Restated Power Purchase Agreement
(docket no. 2017-0122)
July 28
Decision and Order No. 34726
Aug 28
Life of the Land Appeals Decision
May 10
Hawai`i Supreme Court upholds Appeal
June 20
PUC Docket Reopened
Feb 28
Final Information Requests
Mar 6
Responses to Final Information Requests
Prehearing Statements of Position
Prehearing Conference
Evidentiary Hearing
Transcripts Filed
3 weeks later
Post Hearing Briefs

Decision & Order

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