The state Public Utilities Commission issued an order Thursday that gives the media access to cover the upcoming evidentiary hearing of the proposed NextEra Energy-Hawaiian Electric Industries merger.

The quasi-judicial hearing starts Nov. 30 at Blaisdell Center. Twelve days have been reserved but PUC Chair Randy Iwase said the hearing may take longer than that.

Henry Curtis of the non-profit Life of the Land, one of 28 intervenors in the case, made the request for media access last month. He said he did so after Olelo Community Television asked about filming the hearing so people around Oahu and on the neighbor islands could watch it.

TV cameras during Governor David Ige presser on homeless. 10 aug 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
TV cameras roll during a press conference at the governor’s office in August. The PUC says media can apply for access to cover the evidentiary hearing that starts Nov. 30 for the NextEra-HEI merger case. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In granting the request, the PUC rejected two proposed guidelines that Consumer Advocate Jeff Ono suggested. To prevent interruptions during the proceeding, he had wanted no more than two TV cameras and no more than one still photographer (who’d be allowed no more than two cameras and four lenses).

The PUC did adopt other proposed guidelines offered by Ono, however. The final order instituted seven specific guidelines that media will have to follow, such as not wearing clothing that identifies what news outlet the person works for or using flash photography.

There were no objections to the request for media to be allowed to cover the hearing, and the PUC says it intends to grant “all reasonable requests for media access.”

HEI is the parent of Hawaiian Electric Co., which serves Oahu; Maui Electric Co., which serves Maui, Lanai and Molokai; and Hawaiian Electric and Light Co., which serves the Big Island. Together, they serve more than 450,000 customers.

Florida-based NextEra has reached a deal to buy HEI for $4.3 billion. The PUC hopes to decide the case by June.

Iwase said if the evidentiary hearing wraps up by February, then a June decision is possible.

“It’s not a deadline for me,” he said. “It may be a deadline for others, but our job is to do the best we can and do it right.”

Media outlets are required to apply with the PUC for access by Nov. 16.

Read the PUC order here.

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