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For Our Island

For Our Keiki

For Our Future

Mālama Hāmākua


Sign-Waving in Front of Department of Health Building Hilo

When: Friday, February 1, 2019 at 4 p.m.
Where: Department of Health, 1582 Hawaii Belt Rd., Hilo (Next to Coqui's Hideaway)

Hū Honua will irreversibly destroy Hāmākua and North Hilo's resources and affect the quality of life forever. Our water is being threatened by a company that has already illegally polluted our waterways through chemical discharges. And we are facing a climate crisis -- burning trees that will release immense amounts of carbon into our atmosphere is not only irresponsible but the wrong path forward for Hawaii's clean energy future.

We will be sign-Waving in front of DOH Clean Water Branch in Hilo to call on DOH to not give Hū Honua a free pass by accepting their permits for wastewater discharge and injection wells.

Undivided Media's Stop Hū Honua Video (watch the full testimony on the Hearing Page)

What is Hū Honua?

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Hawaii’s last huge tracts of undeveloped coastline are to be found on the Big Island, most notably in Hāmākua, a rich agricultural and scenic area, known for lush native forests, tumbling waterfalls, black sand beaches next to towering cliffs, and important cultural sites such as Waipio Valley.  These fertile, gorgeous lands are being targeted by the State for industrial exploitation.  One of the most egregious industrial facilities in the works is the Honua Bionergy facility in Pepeʻekeo, which plans to burn thousands of acres of trees for electric power if it can open by the end of 2018.  Hū Honua will irreversibly destroy Hāmākua resources and affect the quality of life forever.

Hū Honua Proposes to:


  • Clearcut 5 acres of trees per day in Kaʻū, Hilo, and Hāmākua, adding up to thousands of acres of trees across the island;

  • Drive 5-6 logging trucks PER HOUR (on “light” days) to the power plant in Pepe'ekeo (the County struggles to maintain these roads and bridges with current traffic as is);

  • Burn these trees releasing about 300,000 TONS PER YEAR of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG's); as well as additional pollutants affecting air quality along our coast

  • Draw 21.6 MILLION GALLONS OF WATER PER DAY from the Hakalau aquifer to cool the turbines (the entire district of North Kona consumes only half that);

  • Add over 2 dozen hazardous chemicals to the now hot water;

  • Inject the hot contaminated water back into the aquifer via 3 injection wells that are 400 feet and less than 100 feet from the edge of geologically unstable cliffs;

  • Allow the hot, contaminated water to rise up in the ocean seabed to directly impact coral reefs and critically endangered Hawksbill turtles;

  • And then overcharge us for electricity - double the current cost of solar power, which is dropping exponentially worldwide.






For these deeds, the state is rewarding its multi-billionaire owner, Jennifer Johnson, with a $100 million tax credit. The people of Hawaii cannot afford this. 

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Jennifer Johnson, one of the wealthiest individuals in the U.S., is the main investor in Hū Honua Bioenergy (which recently changed its name to Honua Ola, in order to distance itself from the bad press the project has received). If they can get the facility up and running by the end of December 2018, State officials have promised a $100 million “tax credit.” This is a classic example of how wealth shifts from hard-working citizens into the pockets of the super-rich. And the gap between rich and poor widens ever more.




Hū Honua: A Quick Review

BAD FOR ENERGY COSTS - Hū Honua's Electricity Rates Cost Double That of Solar, at least.


Hu Honua promised the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which approved its Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with HELCO, that it would provide electricity to consumers for a whopping 21.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, increasing to over 32 cents per kw/h by 2048.


Meanwhile, the cost of energy in Hawaiʻi produced with solar costs anywhere from only 9–11 cents per kilowatt-hour.  The Innergex/Paniolo Power solar project planned just down the road in Kamuela should be operational by 2022, with rates of 11c/hr. Why are we destroying our environment, just to be overcharged for energy? 


Moreover, Hu Honua's cost analysis included “Comparing HELCO Fossil Fuel Units to Hu Honua Bioenergy” stating that, beginning in 2040, Big Island ratepayers will begin to see some $600 million in savings in cost. These numbers, however, are based on the high cost of biomass relative to the higher cost of fossil fuel, despite the fact that HELCO has asserted it will not be selling fossil-fuel-based electricity by the 2040s.  What about now till 2040, when we can easily be saving money in the next few years?   Also, we have no guarantee that the biomass used will be local in the future, meaning our costs and impacts to the environment may go up further.

Solar energy prices are still dropping, faster than anyone predicted, 34% this year alone, and installations are skyrocketing worldwide, leading to optimism from industry leaders about solutions to the climate crisis coming from rapid economic factors rather than sluggish policymakers.  There's current examples, such as Tucson Electric Power's solar-plus storage project priced at 4.5 cents per kWh, of where solar is heading, likely many times less expensive than Hu Honua, and that's not counting the ecological, health, and social impacts.   Hu Honua is rushing towards a Big Island disaster tied to high prices while the market is going the opposite, clean, cheap energy direction. We cant afford this.  We need to STOP HU HONUA NOW.

BAD FOR WATER - Hū Honua Will Contaminate the Hakalau Aquifer

Hū Honua is applying for a permit to operate injection wells, less than 100 feet from the cliff shoreline. Tainted wastewater will be injected directly above the aquifer, which will percolate into the water supply as well as through the porous cliffs, and into coastal waters.

Hū Honua and DOH claim that the tainted water will not affect drinking water because it will be injected makai of the well that draws out drinking water. They claim that the injected wastewater will travel directly downhill and won't travel uphill to mix with the water that will be drawn out for drinking. But they also admit that they don’t understand the geology of the cliff well enough to make a definitive conclusion.

As an example of how little they understand the aquifer, when they were asked how they knew that the heated water would not kill  water life once it was discharged into the ocean, they said that, due to geological inconsistencies, the water would take time to arrive at the ocean. It would be enough time to allow for it to cool down.  In other words, when they talk about drinking water, they say the water flows directly to the ocean. When they talk about impacts on the ocean, they say the flow will be indirect. They admit that no studies have been done, which means talking points are "created" to suit their need. Hawaiʻi deserves better than this.


Hū Honua is pumping close to 30 harmful chemicals into the aquifer. For a partial list of chemicals, along with manufacturers' warnings, click the button below.

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BAD FOR THE AIR - Hū Honua will emit Pollutants into our clean Hāmākua Breezes

Hāmākua, literally, breath of god.  Shouldn't we keep it that way?  The Clean Air Permit for Hu Honua was the subject of a long and protracted battle by the community group Preserve Pepeekeo Health and Environment who did their best to have their voice heard, and health and air protected. Here are some links to news articles about that fight.


PFPI groups says Hu Honua will be a major polluter 

Latest volley by Hu Honua opponents describes EPA concerns


EPA ruling big setback for Hu Honua Bioenergy

Who Does the Hawai’i Department of Health serve?


From one of the articles above:  "An independent analysis of the air permit by the non-profit research and science organization, Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI), found that across the board, pollution estimates for the plant are reverse-engineered to fall close to but just below thresholds that would trigger more effective pollution controls.  If allowed to proceed, the plant will have no controls for highly hazardous mercury and dioxins, and weak limits on particulates, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide, pollutants implicated in a variety of respiratory and other serious health effects."  This plant will have an energy production efficiency of only 20%, but 100% of the fuel burned will produce pollution.


The community is now debating Hu Honua's plans thru the Clean Water Branch Permitting process, we are waiting to hear back the DOH decisions on the wastewater permits as well as Contested Case Hearings, but please keep sending email to the relevant officials and decision makers!  Link to potential email drafts and contacts here.

BAD FOR THE CLIMATE - Burning Wood Releases MORE Greenhouse Gas Emissions Than Coal


Burning wood is NOT clean energy. Hū Honua is taking part in a global scheme in which governments are qualifying wood-burning as a “renewable” form of energy. However burning trees for electricity in comparison with fossil fuels per megawatt hour (MWh) emits at the smokestack more than 3 times more CO2 than natural gas, and 1.5 times more CO2 than coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel.


Biomass projects are currently given a blank check as carbon neutral in the long term by the EPA due to the idea that the trees would have sequestered while growing the same amount of carbon they emit during burning, however, this accounting is extremely variable and depends on numerous factors, including type of trees, shipping or trucking of the trees across a distance, how they will be processed, efficiency of the system, and still comes with a large margin of uncertainty, including best and worst case scenarios.  The Science Advisory Board (SAB) of the EPA itself actually strongly disagrees with the EPA policy designation as carbon neutral, insisting that time frame and class of feedstock (to account for other polluting GHG emissions such as nitrous oxide and methane) must be considered on an individual basis, and lots of Biomass projects not making the cut, even in longer term scales of 100 years or more. 

Frankly, the atmosphere doesn't care whether the additional greenhouse gasses we are emitting right now came from long buried fossil fuels or burning fast growing trees, more C02 is simply more C02, and commitments we have on paper to regrow trees doesn't help.  In fact the trees are the only proven means we have to reduce existing C02, so cutting them down is a double whammy.  And beyond that, science is only beginning to look into the intricate interplay that our forests, the living planet "lungs," have on the overall carbon cycle and climactic shifts, as well as water cycle and weather patterns.  It is a complex, living system with feed back cycles and tipping points that we do not yet grasp.  Policies are shifting radically worldwide to keep up with the science, here on the Big Island, we cannot be left behind in the smoke and the heat while letting dirty energy preclude our chances for clean energy and a healthy, livable island.



REALLY REALLY BAD FOR THE CLIMATE - Hū Honua Will Accelerate Climate Chaos

The 2018 United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report concludes that the window of time to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7F) is rapidly disappearing, with deeply significant differences in effect from the 2C (3.6F) target set by the 2015 Paris Climate Accord.  The report describes destabilizing global catastrophe within decades, sometime around 2040, including substantial threats to the worlds food supply, in addition to scorching heat, raging wildfires, devastating hurricanes, massive flooding, rising sea levels, and complete loss of coral reefs.  Socially, economically, environmentally, we cannot afford to wait, but a viable pathway to 1.5C is clear and reachable if we act now.  In order to keep global warming below 1.5C we must halt all further increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions now, reduce GHG’s by 45 % from 2010 levels by 2030, and 100 percent by 2050.   Even the 2C target demands we take drastic action to reduce GHGs by 2030.

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Here on Hawaii Island we are feeling the heat at our current 1C warming above pre-industrial levels.  According to the New York Times/Climate Impact Lab the average number of days at or above 90F in Hilo town since 1980 has increased from 7 per year to 40, with a likely further increase to about 100 days by 2060, possibly 169, and that’s if the 2C target of the Paris Agreement is kept, which we are not on track to do, 3C is more realistic with current commitments.   Who hasn’t seen the link even at this stage between the increasing heat and drought on Westside of the island, wildfire, destructive rainstorms and runoff onto reefs, increased storm damage and flooding on the Eastside of the island, overall less stable agricultural conditions islandwide, while the encroaching ocean waves erode our beaches and infrastructure?

Hawaii is predicted to be hit the hardest of any state in the Nation.   We will be particularly vulnerable to superstorms if the tropical cyclone track shifts northward towards us while ocean temperatures increase.  For our islands, higher average temperatures come with decreased trade winds, changes in precipitation, and declining crop production.  We face severe damages to infrastructure, economy, tourism, coral reefs, fisheries, populations of native plants and animals, and an increase in beach loss, housing shortages, drought and water shortages, sea water mixing with drinking water, flash flooding, disease, and spread of invasive species.

Recently this month East Island in Papahānaumokuākea disappeared beneath the sea during unusual Category 5 storm Walaka, with untold effects for our endangered species in our island chain.  It seems signs are nearby and everywhere that we clearly should be paying attention. This is why it is so important to at the very minimum conform to Hawaii's commitment to the Paris Climate Accord and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as Gov. Ige signed into law. Yet, Hū Honua will release an incredible 300,000 TONS PER YEAR of greenhouse gas emissions for the next 30 years!  Hū Honua’s plans clearly contradict our Paris commitments, as well as the State Constitution’s “Public Trust Doctrine.


Along those same lines, attorney Lance Collins has lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court against the Public Utilities Commission's (PUC’s) approval of Hū Honua, on behalf of Henry Curtis and Life of the Land. This is the first state challenge on climate change, charging the PUC failed in it's mandate to consider climate change and greenhouse gas emissions when granting the HELCO-Hu Honua power purchase agreement.  Oral arguments were heard in Oahu on Oct. 25 and we are on the edge of our seat waiting to hear the outcome, view the  COURT TRANSCRIPT here.


EXTREME RESOURCE DEPLETION - Hū Honua Will Consume An Astronomical Amount of Water

Hū Honua plans on drawing 21 million gallons of water per day from the Hakalau aquifer (water consumption for the entire district of North Kona is only 11 million gallons of water per day). This is not reasonable, sustainable, or "green."

BAD FOR THE ʻĀINA - Hū Honua Will Cause Erosion

Hū Honua proposes to clear-cut 5 acres of eucalyptus trees per day, which would lead to catastrophic mudslides during heavy rainfall events, which are predicted to become more frequent and extreme with climate change. We will update this area shortly with more information.

BAD FOR CULTURE - Hū Honua does not fit in Hawaii

Safe, clean and healthy coastal waters are central to the culture of Pepeekeo's local community, which relies on ocean resources to put food on the table. There are 70 members of the Pepeekeo Shoreline Fishing Committee, who steward and depend on the coastline where the Hu Honua Bioenergy Facility is sited. 

From a Hawaiian cultural perspective, if Hu Honua is allowed to diminish or destroy the natural elements that define Pepeekeo as a place of sustenance and vitality, the cultural and spiritual connection of the community will also suffer deeply as these aspects are inseparable and rooted to place. 

From Place Names of Hawaii: Papaikou is the ancient surfing area and cheifly residence/grove, while Pepe'ekeo is the site of old village (lit. the the food crushed; as in battle), sounds like an early agricultural area worth fighting over.  It also mentions  "A stream and rock here are named for Kama-pua'a, who tried unsucessfully to drown Hina, mother of islands there."  It references Ka'uku (the louse/uku), the volcanic cone from which two lava flows reached the sea, the southern one formed Pepe'ekeo point.  Sounds like a very interesting story, and with reference to Hina in the area, who in Hawaiian mythology is the goddess of the reef, fishermen, and the moon, we can see strong ties to abundant and fertile ocean resources for sustenance.


BAD FOR LOCAL JOBS - Hū Honua is not the only possible employer

Hu Honua has demonstrated that it is not committed to sourcing it's employees from the local labor pool in the last few years, with examples of advertising for and bringing in outside labor thru subcontracting and other methods during construction.  The 30 long term jobs planned down the road, even if they are sourced locally, are not better or safer than those we would have with clean energy installations like wind and solar, such as the Hawi Wind Farm and the planned Innergex in Kamuela.  Why should laborors in Hamakua sacrifice their peace of mind and the land that they love for a project like Hu Honua while the cost of energy rises and quality of life and health goes down for everyone?  We can meet our energy needs cheaper and with better jobs for those who make it happen.

We can think of a whole lot of other uses for these straight, strong Eucalyptus other than burning.  It seems that the cost of wood could only go up and that Hawaii's housing crisis, including the prohibitive cost of shipping materials from the mainland could be eased by utilizing this amazing resource.  The forestry experts who planted these trees can tell us just how many years and how many jobs it will take to appropriately thin and manage these forests, when they are large enough to be used as building materials, although some say they are nearly there already, and how many jobs the building boom could create.  They could also likely speak to how much C02 that would keep from our atmosphere, stored long term in usable buildings instead.  We had a brief conversation with Forestry expert JB Friday over at UH about this, check out his responses on our What's At Risk page. On the Resources page, you will find studies of similar Eucalyptus plantations elsewhere that were planted for paper pulp being adapted for other uses, furniture and some structural timber, depending on the age of the trees.  Eucalyptus plants grow straight by nature, so it’s also the perfect wood for flooring, wall paneling, and trellises. Its color resembles mahogany, but causes much less splintering and chipping.  Granted a number of the smaller, thinned trees will provide structurally low grade timber that will need to find another use, but glue laminating panels could be a great solution for strength or if simply a solution for the visual of knots is an issue, there's always paint!  Hawaii's plantation style homes wouldn't bat an eye, and with that type of full time employment, people would kick up their feet at the end of the day feeling good.  We have an invaluable resource here too good to burn.

BAD FOR DEMOCRACY - Hū Honua bypassed an EA or EIS, and is diverting our taxes from REAL clean energy

As shocking as it may seem, the State or County of Hawaiʻi has never required Hū Honua to conduct either an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). All that was required was a “Special Management Area” permit (SMA permit). This lack of oversight is effectively allowing Hū Honua to pillage Hāmākua’s land and water resources, spew 100s of thousands of tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and run roughshod over any democratic participation.

Also in question is how a project like this could be eligible for a $100 million tax break, it just doesn't make sense.  Not all Biomass projects are bad, in fact some of them are helpful, but Hu Honua is a really bad idea, and the subsidies, tax breaks and investments for these types of poorly thought thru projects need to end.  The fossil fuel industry is knowingly causing the climate crisis, but biomass projects like Hu Honua are knowingly making it worse, sliding in under the banner of "renewable" energy while taking our tax dollars and incentives from investments in the clean energy we sorely need. We need our public institutions to withdraw their support from the fossil fuel as well greenhouse gas emitting dirty energy — be that investments, sponsorships, subsidies or permits — and stand up to the industry before it’s too late.  Here on island, that means we the people demand this $100 million tax credit be nullified, it just doesn't stand to reason that the taxpayer should be footing the bill for this project. 

Science shows the type of clean energy we need to move forward with, and how much more economical it is if we account for true costs to everyday people, not just corporations and CEO's.  Let's support solar and wind on our island, the transition is happening now and happening fast, by stopping Hu Honua we will help accelerate this transition.

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