Chris Yuen, a long-time member of the state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources, could find himself in the hot seat in front of a panel of senators on his way to a reconfirmation vote.
While Yuen received much support for his renomination, he also faced criticism from opponents of projects that were approved under the auspices of the BLNR.
Specifically, the Na Pua Makani wind farm in Kahuku. Protests over the wind farms saw scores of Oahu residents arrested in 2019.
“This is the most important board and commission in the State of Hawaii,” Senate Water and Land Committee Chair Kai Kahele said during a hearing Monday. “I want to make sure the nominee embodies that.”
Kahele as well as fellow committee members Sens. Gil Riviere and Kurt Fevella were among the senators that raised concerns over the wind project at the height of the protests last year.
Those three also make up a majority of votes needed to give Yuen a preliminary approval from the committee before he heads to a vote by the full 25-member Senate.
The plan is have Yuen appear before the committee again when the Legislature reconvenes in June.
Kahele said the senators were rushed to pass out about 40 other nominees for boards and commissions last week and didn’t have time to fully question Yuen, nor give him enough time to respond.
“It’s in the best interest to reconvene on this and give him more time in front of this committee and give the public an opportunity to weigh in as well,” Kahele said.
Yuen’s confirmation was supported by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Hawaii Farm Bureau, the Hawaii Island Community Development Corporation, the Conservation Council for Hawaii and more than 30 individuals.
Opposition testimony came from the Sierra Club of Hawaii and 27 individuals, most of whom submitted similar testimony objecting to Yuen’s role in approving the Na Pua Makani wind farm.
Asked by Riviere at a hearing Wednesday what he’d say to those in Kahuku, Yuen said they should look at the wind farms as a point of pride.
“Something that says, this is a community that is contributing to a necessary change in the world,” he told the senators.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell