Tuesday, April 23, 2013


A State Agency Surveys What People Think of It

By Henry Curtis

On March 7, 2013 the PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION held an invitation-only meeting. The meeting started with PUC Chair Hermina Morita talking about a survey that the Commission sent out.

As many of you know with our invitation you also received a survey, and here's what I learned from the survey. If you appear to be a practitioner before the PUC, the general thought was that we were making improvements, but lacked the resources. On the other hand, those who were not regular practitioners before the PUC thought we were incompetent, a rubber stamp for HECO, didn't listen to the public, opaque, operating in a black box. So no doubt, the largest stakeholder group -- the one that the PUC decisions affect the most, the general public, or the ratepayer -- does not hold the agency in very high regard.”

The afternoon meeting was devoted to a conversation between Maurice Kaya and Scott Hempling, a national regulatory expert with a decade of experience consulting for  the Hawai’i PUC.

Scott had a great deal to say. 

I recorded the event and transcribed the recording. It is well worth reading for those who want to better understand Hawai`i utility regulation.

Scott did not shy away from controversy:

“I would like to say that in all of the States that I have worked in, there is not a State with a bigger gap between the expectations of the Legislature has placed on the Commission and the responsibilities that have been placed with the Commission and the resources that the Commission has in terms of number of staff, flexibility to hire staff, flexibility to pay staff. It strikes me as just a deep inconsistency”

 “The public, in terms of the values that matter, isn’t going to have much influence, and shouldn’t have much influence over Commission decision-making.”

“What I think is frankly more important, is to dampen the public’s expectations, that they can influence a Commission’s decision.”

“I still think the problem is at the top. Of not creating a path by which decisions can be made faster.”

“If you want renewables and you  want it fast and you want it big, get a statute that gives the company, the IPP [Independent Power Producer] or the Commissioner or all three, the pre-emptive authority to condemn the land and move it. “

“Community hearing, let people have their say, and then get it done.”

“I’m saying that if the State wants renewables it’s going to have to bite the bullet and take on the political opposition and get it done.”

“Perhaps the word for consumers is patience. Give the Commission running room.”

“Let’s talk about the woman’s concern from Lana`i about the opposition to renewable energy. The Commission has this obligation to goose the utility towards achieving the goals, but the Commission doesn’t have the legal power to go over to Lana`i, and tell the landowners there and the community to stuff it and let the plant get built. They don’t have that authority so the Commission under present law, doesn’t have the authority to make it all happen.  This strikes me as a problem."

Commissioners should be  “independent of arguments that aren’t based on the merits.”  “independent of arguments that are based on emotions” “Independent of adverbs and adjectives, and insist on facts and logic.”

# # #


Scott doesn't seem top hold all of us little people in high regard. We really should know our place and not obstruct progress by demanding transparency, responsiveness or a desire to actually have a voice in the decision making process. On reflection, Scott's right - just give anyone who wants it the pre-emptive authority to condemn land. I mean, it works for HART.

Sorry for the blatant snark and thanks for a great insight into this slice of "As The PUC Turns."

Wow. Scott Hempling ʻconsultantʻ: In other words make a law to shut the public up and still be able to gouge their pockets every month to pay our salaries and costs of our bad decisions.

Good report.


It seems there are folks who are unaware that Hawaii holds its values as guiding principles which help determine merit. There is a difference between emotion and values, although values are often defended emotionally. If you develop with disregard to a community's values, you have taken something very precious from that community.

The citizens of this state are paying the highest energy rates in the nation and receiving the poorest service in the nation nothing more needs to be said.

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