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Thursday, June 8, 2000

Kauai Electric gets
approval to build plant

By Anthony Sommer


LIHUE -- A Kauai Circuit Court judge has given Kauai Electric Co. the green light to begin work on a major new power plant outside Hanamaulu.

Judge George Masuoka has notified attorneys in the case that he is rejecting the appeal of a group called Citizens For Clean Air filed Oct. 6. Walton Hong, attorney for Kauai Electric, said yesterday he was asked to draft a final order, which may not be issued for several weeks.

Citizens for Clean Air asked the court to throw out permits issued to Kauai Electric by the Kauai Planning Commission on Sept. 9 because commissioners knew that the Kauai Planning Department had violated its own rules on processing permits.

Coincidentally, the Planning Commission was scheduled to vote today on new rules that will conform to the process that it admits using illegally for about two decades.

The existing rules require a permitting process that provides for a public hearing on a permit application after the planning director issues his recommendation to the commission.

The commission had been conducting the public hearings before the director's recommendations were drafted. Citizens for Clean Air appealed, saying the public was not allowed to speak on the recommendations.

Kauai Electric and the county basically argued "no harm, no foul." They pointed out that even though there was no public hearing after the recommendations were issued, there were two public commission meetings at which numerous opponents to the plant were allowed to address the recommendations, some speaking several times.

The net effect, they told the judge, is that no member of the public who wanted to speak against the recommendations was prevented from doing so.

Masuoka's formal order is expected to reflect that argument.

"I'm not surprised," said Maui attorney John Rapacz, who represented Citizens for Clean Air. "I've said all along we may have to go to the appellate courts on Oahu to get an unbiased ruling."

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