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Hawaii Bioenergy Plant Backers Protest Ban On Construction

Cheyenne Maltezo/Honua Ola

Supporters of the Honua Ola Bioenergy company held a rally Monday in an attempt to ward off an order that could permanently stop construction of the firm's long-delayed power plant on Hawaii Island.

About 100 people protested the Public Utilities Commission decision that construction of the plant was not in the economic interest of Hawaii's public and could harm the environment.

The company's supporters and employees argued that the decision could leave more than 60 people out of work.

More than $350 million has been dedicated to the plant's construction and the facility is 99% completed, the company said.

The commission approved provisions in 2017 that would have approved the power plant's full construction. An agreement between Honua Ola and the Hawaii Electric Light Co. would have allowed the bioenergy company to buy power produced by burning eucalyptus trees growing along the northeastern coast of the state's Big Island.

But the Life of the Land environmental group challenged the commission's decision, saying it violated state law by not explicitly considering its obligation to reduce Hawaii's greenhouse gas emissions before approving the agreement.

In May 2019, the state's Supreme Court agreed, retroactively rejecting the commission's approval for the plant and forcing the commission to reexamine the case. The commission eventually rejected the deal on July 9.

Honua Ola has asked the commission to reconsider its decision.

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