Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Mina Morita Clears First Hurdle

By Henry Curtis

Governor Neil Abercrombie has appointed Representative Hermina (Mina) Morita, Chair of the House Committee Energy and Environmental Protection (EEP), to be Chair the Hawai`i Public Utilities Committee.

She will be perhaps the third female Commissioner since the PUC was founded in 1913. The others women were Janet Kewalo and Rae Loui. She will be the first women to be Chair.

Mina went before the Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection (CPN) today. The hearing was chaired by Senator Rosalyn H. Baker. Almost 60 people and organizations sent in testimony, all in favor. The oral testimony was also all in favor.

What was surprising is that most people present did not want to actually testify in person, preferring to stand on their written testimony; and there was an absence of environmental groups. Reading off all the names of the people who wrote testimony, and all of the oral testimony, with the exception of Mina Morita, took less than 30 minutes combined.

Speaker Say testified first. In his written testimony Speaker Say stated: "Representative Morita also is balanced in her legislative work. I have found that Representative Morita is willing to listen to all sides of an issue and then make an informed decision for the overall best interest of the public. She definitely is not a rigid extremist."

The audience roared following an exchanged between Warren Bollmeier and Senator Baker

Warren Bollmeier (Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance): “I'm surprised that more people don’t want to come up, and the reason why I wanted to come up to say this is, it’s not often that we get to hear in public what people think of us.”

Senator Baker: “And maybe that's a good thing sometimes”

Warren Bollmeier: “Even though were not under oath”

Undersea Cable

Senator Baker “One of the biggest topics at the Legislature really revolves around a Big Wind project that's being proposed for Lana`i and the attended undersea cable. Have you formed an opinion on that?”

Representative Morita:

I think it’s a critical issue that needs to be looked at. You know I have a personal stake in this having been born and raised on Lana`i.  It helps to address the resource issue where most of the resources are on the Neighbor Islands and, the usage, the need is on Oahu. From the studies that I've seen its technically and financially feasible but again when I put the regulatory hat on you know I have to be acting on facts and analysis. You know, at this time again, it is difficult to make the transition from an advocate to a regulator, but, again, as a legislator, I see it as one of the few viable options to address the resource shortage on Oahu. I see it as an economic development opportunity for Moloka`i and Lana`i, again, I believe it opens doors for them. But as a regulator I would have to go back and look at the facts of whether it serves the policies needs of the State and the regulatory needs of the State in being fair to both the ratepayer and well as the regulated companies." 

 Proactive PUC

Mina Morita: “Under Chair Carlito Caliboso' thoughtful and steady leadership the PUC has been trying to keep up with evolving technology and innovation to meet the State's changing policies and consumer demands. I hope to build upon this foundation in strong partnership with my fellow commissioners, the Legislature, the Administration, to enhance the capacity of the PUC to meet the needs of our State in a most cost-effective way.”

“You know a lot of the issues that we face on the energy side spans across all of the regulated industries, you're dealing with changes in technology and evolving business models and the PUC has to be proactive in looking at those issues”

“One of my goals is to make the PUC more proactive in anticipating these kind of changes that are happening within our community, how to anticipate these changes, and respond as a regulator to meet these challenges.”

Fossil Fuel

Senator Galluteria: “Let's follow up with the energy initiatives, the Hawai`i Clean Energy Initiative. As a policy maker in this area for many years you're quite aware of where we need to be in 2030 we want to be in that new blend, portfolio and 30% still being in the fossil fuel area. [ ] Specifically what type of fossils would you be looking at, natural gas?”

Mina Morita: “I think we are still looking at petroleum products, primarily, maybe some coal. [ ] we're still dealing with Hawai`i as primarily a liquid fuel based distribution system, so, again when you looking at natural gas or anything like that, it means building new infrastructure, you know as we move in this transition, mainly what we are looking at is how do we maximize the kinds of infrastructure that we already have, as we wait for technology to mature and become cheaper to make these kinds of transition.


 Senator Sam Slom: “I respect your integrity and character and experience. I have no questions, no problems in that area. [ ] What would be the first three priorities you would seek as Chairman of the PUC to do, to change the PUC?”

Mina Morita: “Well I think one of the primary concerns that I have had for many years is making sure that the agency has an adequate budget to operate from.”


Mina Morita: “Like many candidates during a campaign season, when I first ran for the State House over fifteen years ago, I said Hawai`i was overly dependent on the visitor industry and that we must diversify our economy. [ ] There is no doubt that Hawai`i’s economy is over-reliant on the visitor industry, and we must diversify our economy to become more sustainable.”


Senator Solomon: “The reason I'm voting for you I hope you’re not going to be tied up with just regulation. I hope that, and the reason I'm really supporting you is because I see you as a new visionary in terms of pushing the PUC in different directions so they can start to really understand what our challenges are I mean, my god, I mean if oil goes up to 250 bucks a barrel you can forget tourism in Hawai`i.”

Written Testimony

House Speaker Say; Kauai Mayor Bernard P. Carvalho, Jr.; Honolulu City Council Chair Nestor Garcia; Ex Rep Ezra Kanoho; former Rep Ken Hiraki; PUC Chair Caliboso; Kaua'i Office of Economic Development; Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA);

Young Brothers; Hawaii Energy Policy Forum; Hawaii Solar Energy Association; Hawaiian Electric Company; Kauai Island Utility Cooperative; Blue Planet Foundation; Castle & Cooke; Hawaii Renewable Energy Alliance; Solar Alliance; Hawaii BioEnergy, LLC; Keahole Solar Power, LLC; The Gas Company; Tesoro Hawaii; Jeffrey Ono (Consumer Advocate); Sandra-Ann Y.H. Wong (wind/solar/biofuel attorney); Melissa T. Pavlicek (attorney for Western States Petroleum Assn); Rosehill & Associates (lobbyist representing Kauai Island Utility Cooperative); Haiku Design & Analysis;

Enterprise Honolulu; Hawaii Business League; World Business Academy; SolarCity; Hawaii Transportation Association; Pahio Development, Inc.; First Hawaiian Bank; Maui Land & Pineapple Company; Hawai'i Association of Realtors; ILWU Local 142; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 50; Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust; Kairos Energy Capital LLC; R. Brian Tsujimura (AMFAC, AES Coal, GM);

Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs; Kauai Attn Harold Bronstein; Jay Fidell; Dante K. Carpenter (Chair, Democratic Party); Michael Hamnett (Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii); Better Place, Inc.; Susan A. Fujimura; Jennifer Lucien (Rep Morita's Office Manager and Committee Clerk 2002-2005); George M. Waialeale (IBEW); Audrey Newman; Carol Wilcox; Guy Kaniho; Denise Antolini; Judy Dalton; Thomas T Shirai Jr; Arvid Tadao Youngquist; Carl Paoo Jellings Sr

Oral Testimony Only

Jael Eli (a former aide to Rep Morita)


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