Big Wind, Big Warning: Abercrombie Threatens Molokai Ranch with Condemnation

In an effort to reach the goals set by the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, it can be expected that sacrifices must be made by all residents to reduce our energy consumption.   We must do our part to change our habits and become energy aware.  Turning off the AC, carpooling, and replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs are some sacrifices we may make.  But one sacrifice we should not be forced to make is forfeiting lands and livelihoods on Molokai and Lanai to massive, costly wind farms.

Governor Abercrombie disagrees.  When Boston-based wind energy company, First Wind, failed to come to an agreement with Molokai Ranch regarding the land they need to get the $3 billion project off the ground, Abercrombie reminded Molokai Ranch that the state has the power of eminent domain.   He threatened to exercise that power to condemn the Molokai site, take the land and turn it over to the “Big Wind” project.

Eminent domain allows the government to take private land for public use, with compensation and without consent.  Is it fair to consider it “public use” if the public is strongly against the designated use?

Abercrombie doesn’t seem concerned with what is fair.  And Molokai Ranch is feeling the pressure.  Following the governor’s threat and the failed attempt with First Wind, Molokai Ranch began negotiations with San Francisco-based wind and transmission company, Pattern Energy.  But a deal has yet to emerge.  Tensions are growing, many Molokai residents are holding firm their “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) stance, and supporters of Big Wind are surfacing.

One such supporter recently submitted an article to the Star Advertiser, claiming that Big Wind is the “keystone of our Clean Energy Initiative” and urging the governor to  “make eminent domain imminent”.  Interestingly, the author of the article, Jay Fidell, is the owner of ThinkTech Hawaii, a company financed in part by Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO).  Fidell conveniently forgot to mention his connection to HECO and subsequent link to Big Wind.  It seems he has also forgotten about the many other projects, including solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass that are all pieces of the Clean Energy Initiative picture.

Fidell and supporters of Big Wind are blinded by big money, placing corporate interests ahead of community, and leading others to believe that wind is the only way.  Thankfully, groups such as Friends of Lanai are sharing the facts about wind energy and the irreversible impact wind farms will have on the islands, if they are allowed to be built.

Simply put, proponents of Big Wind have overstated the benefits and understated the cost.  In addition to the financial burden that taxpayers will inherit, there are cultural and environmental costs to consider.  Sacred burial sites will be unearthed, and the land – that many on Lanai and Molokai are so closely connected to – will be taken, leaving residents with less lands on which to farm, fish, hunt and live their lives.  The proposed undersea cable will run through Humpback Whale Sanctuary and the marine life will be at risk.

Rather than making threats of condemnation, Abercrombie should be making an effort to support the people of Molokai and Lanai and help them protect their lands and lives against the imminent Big Wind intrusion.

Residents can offer their own support by voicing concerns to legislators, newspapers, and environmental organizations.