State regulators have decided to allow another round of exchanges between Hawaiian Electric Industries, NextEra Energy, the Consumer Advocate and the 28 intervenors in the biggest utility merger case in Hawaii history.

Tens of thousands of pages have already been filed since the Public Utilities Commission opened the docket in January. The process of the parties in the case asking each other questions and responding — or not — with the information being sought is now set to end Oct. 16.

HEI and NextEra submitted just over 1,000 pages Aug. 31 in response to hundreds of questions from parties in the case. That response included more than 50 new commitments. Those commitments, as well as the applicants’ statement that the deal would amount to an estimated $1 billion in savings to customers and benefits to the local economy, convinced the PUC to change its procedural schedule.

PUC listens Maui

Staff and members of the state Public Utilities Commission listen to merger testimony Sept. 4 on Maui.

Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat

Intervenors, which include groups like the Sierra Club and Ulupono Initiative, are now in the process of submitting follow-up requests for information based on that response.

The PUC has decided that instead of wrapping up there, HEI and NextEra should be allowed to ask additional questions and then the intervenors should be given one more round of follow-ups.

The deadline for discovery is Sept. 30. The deadline for rebuttal testimony of the Consumer Advocate and intervenors is Oct. 7, and the surrebuttal testimony of the applicants is due by Oct. 16.

The commission also set a prehearing conference for 9:30 a.m., Nov. 4 that will bring the parties together in advance of the formal evidentiary hearing process that starts Nov. 30 at Blaisdell Arena.

In the meantime, the PUC has been making its way around the state to hear what the public thinks about the proposed buyout. The commission has already visited Maui and Lanai, and its next stop is Saturday on Molokai. Listening sessions on Big Island, Kauai and Oahu are set to follow over the next several weeks.

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