Governor’s race is about clean energy vs corporate profits
The 2016 NextEra deal is the fulcrum upon which the Hawaiʻi executive's race hinges.
Based on a public interest perspective, Governor Ige is worthy of support for reelection; not because he is right on all issues, but because he is able to recognize compelling public interests despite the corporate lobby and campaign interests that target the governorship. Colleen Hanabusa, his main opponent, has historically been more welcoming of the influence (and financing) of large corporate interests.
Consider: Ige set accelerated renewable energy goals by 2045 and focused on policy to keep our oil consumption on track for conversion to renewable energy. He has a commitment to sustainable energy and keeping fracked liquified natural gas (LNG) out of the mix. (The specific role of all possible energy sources and the full plans for transition to renewables by 2045 are still being worked out).
Hanabusa’s campaign, meanwhile, is backed by Jennifer Sabas, one of the chief lobbyists for Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), The Gas Company and NextEra, the mainland Florida company that has sought, and will seek again given an opportunity, to acquire HECO and keep Hawaiʻi tethered to a monopolistic private-profit structure. Her statement on sustainable energy is non-committal, with no pledge to keep out fracked gas. (Though Hanabusa claims to also have been opposed to the NextEra deal in 2016.)
Such diverging records, reflected in relationships and industry support, represent substantial differences in policy: a locally-determined conversion to sustainable energy and solar, or an offshore-driven, neocolonial dedication to fossil fuel use and maximum private profits over public interest.
Since the merger plan collapsed, more than a dozen NextEra executives, including CEO James L. Robo and the company’s political action committee, have showered Hanabusa with $42,000 in campaign contributions, fueling speculation that the company plans to return to the state.
Others who were involved in the NextEra deal now also support Hanabusa, including Jennifer Sabas, former chief of staff for the late U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. Sabas was hired by NextEra in 2015 to do community outreach. Sabas made $5,000 in donations to Hanabusa’s campaign since the NextEra deal was scrapped.
History of the Next Era Deal and Big Corporate Influence
The governor’s race in 2018 is largely about potential resurrection of the NextEra takeover of local power production and distribution, and subsequent HECO and GasCo profits. In 2016, Governor Ige and the PUC killed the NextEra deal. This recognition of public interest and refusal to play along with corporate profiteering made the Governor unpopular with the powerful higher-ups that run Hawaiʻi’s energy sector and who stood to earn the most from the deal. It seems that, almost from the day the deal died, these interests were looking for someone to challenge David Ige, and Colleen Hanabusa emerged as their “champion.” She has since received major campaign financing from industry executives and is backed by the lobbyist for HECO, GasCo and NextEra. Read these articles for for more background:
Compelling Public Interest Energy Policy for Environment and Solar
Here is the long term vision factor on Hawaiʻi energy: Governor Ige established a solid plan for a renewables transition by 2045 without the use of LNG and it’s costly infrastructure upgrades. Congressperson Hanabusa lacks such a commitment in her alternative energy policy and appears willing to hold the door open for possible LNG use, claiming that doing so could provide lower costs to consumers. What is to stop her from accepting a new deal for NextEra monopoly ownership, blunting the need for HECO to move quickly away from fossil fuels while maximizing the stock profit payout to private shareholders? David Ige has already prevented that from happening. We know where he stands. Colleen Hanabusa, meanwhile—both in 2016 and now—has remained largely unclear on her position regarding a potential renewed NextEra buyout and the use of fracked gas.
In 2018, sustainable energy sources like solar are now even more cost effective, so selling us out to a big mainland corporation that would put its profits ahead of our local energy and environmental needs continues to make no public policy sense.
Gov. Ige’s continuing value is established on this issue alone. He can be a trusted authority to ensure that the transition and alternative issues are fully publicly reviewed and well managed.
From the Sierra Club of Hawai’i:
BIG NEWS! Governor David Ige signed SB2939, the Hawaiʻi Ratepayer Protection Act into law, setting the course for the utility of the future. Big mahalos for who worked hard to make this happen - Hawaiʻi Solar Energy Association, RevoluSun, Smart Home, Blue Planet Foundation, Elemental Excelerator, Sunrun, Earthjustice.
SuperPACs and Big Corporate Influence
Candidate Hanabusa’s campaign has taken in large amounts of corporate and PAC money which, in the absence of a clear policy against resurrecting the bad NextEra deal, could be viewed as an exchange for reinstating it. Hanabusa’s campaign donations should be evaluated against the risks to the public interest.
The latest incarnation of Pacific Resources Partnership (PRP), “Be Change Now,” has similarly chosen Colleen Hanabusa as the big money interests’ gubernatorial candidate:
“Be Change Now,” the latest super PAC created by the Hawaii Regional Council of Carpenters, has poured nearly $3 million into Hawaii’s 2018 primary election cycle, campaign spending reports released late Wednesday show. Much of that cash is going to support U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s bid to become governor.
Colleen Hanabusa Contributions, Schedule A (last two periods), ‘view report’, second column affiliations.
David Ige Contributions, Schedule A (last two periods), ‘view report’, second column affiliations.