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Hawaii Supreme Court Ruling Advances Big Island Biomass Energy Plant


Plans for a biomass energy plant on the Big Island are heading back to the Public Utilities Commission after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Pepe?ekeo plant.

The state's highest court supported Honua Ola Bioenergy’s appeal of a PUC order that halted the facility’s planned completion. The nearly half a billion-dollar plant, that was formerly known as “Hu Honua,” would burn wood to produce energy for Hawaiian Electric's power grid.

The court ruled that the PUC misinterpreted a 2019 court ruling and needs to hold a hearing that follows the court’s instructions. That includes consideration of greenhouse gas emissions, a concern brought by the environmental group Life of the Land.

Warren Lee, president of Honua Ola, called the decision a “major milestone” that makes it clear what the PUC needs to do.

"I think it's actually very clear what the Supreme Court remanded a couple of years ago, that the issue of greenhouse gas reduction be addressed fully, and to let participants like Life of the Land participate fully," he said. "I think it reaffirmed their order from two years ago, so we're back to where we were."

"We hope that we can get it done with the Public Utilities Commission and other parties expeditiously so that we can move forward, get the plant online."

Life of the Land President Henry Curtis said his organization is “pleased with the ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court.”

It will be up to the Public Utilities Commission to set the procedural schedule for next steps in the case.

This story aired on The Conversation on May 25, 2021.

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