Princess Kawananakoa urges senators to challenge governor's PUC pick

Hawaiian Princess Calls for Special Session
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Princess Abigail Kawananakoa has joined the debate over the governor's controversial appointment to the Public Utilities Commission.

In a letter to state Senate President Ronald Kouchi, Kawananakoa urges lawmakers to call a special session to mull over the appointment of Tom Gorak to the three-member commission.

Some Senate leaders and others see Gorak's appointment as an attempt to block NextEra Energy's $4.3 billion takeover of Hawaiian Electric. Ige has opposed the takeover.

In her letter, Kawananakoa says she shares the governor's opposition to NextEra's acquisition of Hawaiian Electric, but believes the governor's pick will erode public confidence in government.

State senators are already considering a legal challenge to the pick. Ige says he's well within his rights to appoint to the PUC.

State Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom said however you cut it, the decision is important. "Probably the most important decision, so when you have only three commissioners, then that puts a great deal of weight on each one of them," he said.

Gorak replaces Commissioner Michael Champley, whose term expired last week. Some senators wanted him to stay on the job until his replacement could be confirmed by the state Senate next year.

Gorak has been the PUCs chief attorney on the $4 billion NextEra deal and supporters of the merger suspect that he was appointed to make sure the deal dies.

On Friday, Ige once again defended his use of the power to fill the vacancy.

"There is a process that we've complied with," he said. "I think that part of my selection was to ensure that someone would be familiar with all of the proceedings."

In addition to considering legal action, state senators are looking at whether to call a special session, which is what the Kawananakoa is urging.

If a special session doesn't happen, Kawananakoa is willing to take her own legal action.

Hawaii News Now Political Analyst Colin Moore doesn't see a special session happening over the issue, though.

"It would severely damage the relationship between the governor and the senate," he said. "I think the senate is frustrated but I doubt that they're going to move much further on this matter."

A decision on the possibility of a special session to vote on the appointment could come as early as next week.

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