"Wind energy bill deferred"
Councilman Furfaro: ‘We need to have a game plan’
By Michael Levine - The Garden Island LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i County Council finally did what it had been dancing around for months. Discussion of the small wind energy bill has been deferred until officials see a draft of the comprehensive energy sustainability plan.
The bill — which would clear the way for citizens to install small personal wind energy systems without the time and expense of applying for special permits from the county Planning Department — was deferred last week by the council’s Planning Committee until Oct. 28.
“We need to have a game plan,” said Committee Chair Jay Furfaro, who had asked for such a lengthy deferral at previous meetings but had to settle for repeated two-week delays. He said he wants the council to establish and adopt a strategic plan that can be followed far into the future — even if the current crop of council members don’t get re-elected.
Furfaro finally found the votes necessary to get the deferral he wanted. Because he cannot move for nor second a deferral or any other action as the committee chair, and with Tim Bynum and Lani Kawahara having voiced their support for the bill and their desire to work on it and pass it now, both Daryl Kaneshiro and Derek Kawakami’s support was required for a continuance.
“A deferral doesn’t mean that the work stops,” Kawakami said, adding that he supports the idea of small wind systems but various environmental groups disagree on how the goals should be achieved and that work still needs to be done to the proposal. “The work never stops.”
While individual council members can conduct research and write amendments in the coming weeks, or join up in pairs to do so, no changes can be made to the bill until it comes back on the council floor because of the state Sunshine Law.
Kaneshiro said he wanted to focus on land zoned agricultural or industrial rather than residential because many critics’ complaints have focused on the impacts of noise and visual blight on neighborhoods situated on such property, especially on the North Shore.
Kawakami and Kaneshiro said they would not yet vote for Bill No. 2317, but both Kawahara and Bynum both spoke out in favor of it.
“Doing this now does not preclude us from doing anything more to follow the strategic plan,” Kawahara said.
“It’s not this or that, it’s both,” Bynum agreed. “We need to get serious about alternative energy. ... Right now, the county is the obstacle.”
Council Chair Kaipo Asing, who is an ex-officio (non-voting) member of all council committees, asked his colleagues why they didn’t want to wait until Oct. 28.
“What is the big rush now?” he asked.
In the end, the committee voted 5-0 for the deferral, with Bynum and Kawahara conceding the point.
Furfaro said if the consultant, Sentech Hawai‘i, has not finished the draft by the Oct. 28 committee meeting, he will ask representatives to be present on that date to explain the progress and status of the report.
Earlier this year, the county said the draft report would be rolled out to the public via webinar in November, followed by a month-long period for feedback.
The final Energy Sustainability Plan is expected to be completed by January or February and will contain recommended steps that the county, in collaboration with the private sector, can take to achieve its energy sustainability goals over the next 20 years.
In other deferral news, a proposed bill that would allow farmers to create additional housing for their workers was unanimously pushed back to the same Oct. 28 Planning Committee meeting.
Former Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said groups like Malama Kaua‘i and the Kaua‘i Farm Bureau are reviewing the legislation and talking with interested parties to ensure the ordinance, if passed, is a strong one.
This Wednesday, the council will have an opportunity to act on a proposed ban on plastic checkout bags. Two weeks ago, the vote was deferred so council members could read and weigh testimony from the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce and another business advocacy group that opposes the ban on economic grounds.
Since that meeting, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. has come out in support of the legislation, saying in written testimony to the council that such a measure is inevitable.