PUC to reconsider approval of halted bioenergy project after high court ruling

(Hawaii News Now/File)
Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 7:03 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Supreme Court is giving a controversial wood-burning power plant another chance to win over state regulators.

Honua Ola worked for more than decade to set up operations, spending nearly $500 million. But before the project was completed, it was suddenly blocked by the Public Utilities Commission over environmental concerns.

On Monday, the high court ruled the PUC must reconsider, and this time account for greenhouse gas emissions.

Project advocates say the project is not only good for the economy, but also environmentally sustainable.

“It is green. The trees that are harvested will be replaced, so you come out with a net effective carbon neutral or better yet, you may be able to come out carbon negative for a 30 year period,” Honua Ola President Warren Lee said.

But opponents like the group ‘Life of the Land’ argue that solar battery projects are cheaper and better for the environment. They are going to continue fighting the project.

“We are very confident that Hu Honua will never operate,” Henry Curtis of Life of the Land said. “Even on the remote chance that it went to a hearing they are still going to lose.”

Approval for the bioenergy plant has been an ongoing battle for more than 13 years now.

The supreme court did not take a position on whether the plant should be allowed to operate, only that it deserves another PUC hearing.

[Read a previous report: Big Island workers rally, urging PUC to reconsider deal that would save bioenergy jobs]

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