Attorneys for the proposed Hu Honua tree-burning plant on the Big Island have filed their opening brief in their appeal of state utility regulators’ denial of a power purchase agreement that would have allowed the plant to fire up.

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In a lengthy filing last week to the Hawaii Supreme Court, they argued the record shows that the Public Utilities Commission has engaged in a years-long campaign to deny Hu Honua the ability to operate, regardless of the evidence and the applicable law.

Hu Honua is asking the state’s highest court for relief to operate its renewable biomass plant at Pepeekeo. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Referring to the May 23 decision by two of the three commissioners to deny Hu Honua an amended power purchase agreement with Hawaiian Electric Light Co., the lawyers said the PUC majority simply “stuck to their guns and shot the Project down, as they had intended to do all along, regardless of the law or what the evidence demonstrated.”

Hu Honua said it has met its burden of proof that its tree-burning operation will result in a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the 30-year life of the project. Opponents of the project say that’s not the case.

In a motion filed Sept. 22, lawyers for Hu Honua had asked the high court to expedite its appeal saying “quite simply, after more than five years of delay and more than $500 million invested, Hu Honua cannot afford to ride this merry-go-round much longer.”

The viability of the project is at stake, the motion says, and “expedited review and priority treatment of this appeal is not only appropriate; it is entirely necessary.”

Lawyers for the PUC objected, saying Hu Honua should not be allowed to “manufacture a sense of urgency” to reduce the commission’s opportunities to prepare their position on appeal. The state Consumer Advocate, environmental group Life of the Land, and wind-energy company Tawhiri Power also objected, successfully as it turned out.

On Oct. 5, the court denied Hu Honua’s motion to expedite the appeal.

Read Hu Honua’s opening brief:

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