Setbacks-Itʻs a thing

1. Submit testimony for Res. 19-305

  • Meeting Date: 3/18/20
  • Council/PH Committee: Council/Public Hearing
  • Agenda Item: Res19-305
  • Your Position: SUPPORT 
  • Representing: Self


Dear Chair Anderson and members of the council, 

My name is_____and I reside in______. I would like to share my support for Resolution 19-305, relating to the proposed Amendment to Chapter 21, Revised Ordinances of Honolulu 1990 (The Land Use Ordinance) Relating to Wind Machines. Climate change mitigation to become fossil fuel free is critical to protect our home and ensure a liveable future. But it is equally important to make sure that communities that house large-scale projects are protected from harm or unfairly burdened. I thank Councilmember Tsuneyoshi for addressing this issue and providing a solution with setbacks so that all can benefit from and support clean energy projects moving forward. Please vote to adopt this resolution. 

Mahalo for the opportunity to testify in support of Res. 19-305. 


(Your Name) 

2. Watch the hearing live!

*In an effort to do all we can to take precautions with coronavirus, we do not recommend attending the public meeting. Follow the hearing on Olelo!

AES Corp. operates major power facilities on Oʻahu, one being a coal burning plant, and has large-scale clean energy projects underway. It is a company known for global practices of resource extraction and toxic coal dumping in vulnerable communities. We have been in a fight to shut down their coal fired power plant not only to end fossil fuel energy dependence but also the use of coal ash at the PVT Landfill in Nānakuli. Their most recent wind farm project under scrutiny is in Kahuku on state agricultural land. Community members and endangered species advocates are challenging the way AES and the state are handling the project. 

The site is surrounded by farms, schools, homes, a hospital, a native bird sanctuary and endangered bats. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum setback of 5,280 feet from communities and congregated centers. Many European nations with more than two decades of experience with wind farms have setbacks of 3-5 miles. The wind turbines being constructed at Kahuku are the largest in the US and stand 568 ft high.  They are within 760 ft of a farming shelter, 1,574 ft from homes, and 1,900 ft from Kahuku Elementary School.

The Kahuku community filed a lawsuit in circuit court challenging the flawed approval.  Despite 2 pending lawsuits and a PUC motion challenging the power purchase agreement, AES moved ahead with construction. But clean energy projects cannot jeopardize one community while pursuing a decarbonized economy. It is not about clean energy at all costs. AESʻs actions and the lack of government protection for community and wildlife during large-scale planning processes is not acceptable. 

Statement from Oʻahu Group Chair Hunter Heaivilin: 

“Efforts that pursue climate adaptation without climate justice reify social inequities instead of remedying them. Public opposition is to bad planning, which if not addressed may become generalized antipathy towards renewable energy projects. There are clear winners when a Fortune 500 company and utility partner to develop a 50-story windfarm in a rural community. Communities haven’t been one of them up to this point. Projects that don’t articulate and deliver benefits to stakeholders not just shareholders will continue to face opposition. These processes however do not have to be zero sum. The state and county should not use renewable energy goals to elide community input, public process, and good planning. To achieve environmental justice these projects must both address historical wrongs and reduce future hardships. There is no justice without sustainability, and can be no sustainability without justice.”

The City and County of Honolulu is trying to address these concerns in the pursuit of our 2045 goals to go fossil fuel free. Councilmember Tsuneyoshi, who represents the North Shore district, introduced a resolution that creates setback requirements for wind projects. It is an effort to ensure no community on Oʻahu is burdened by large scale projects. In light of the recent protests in her district and others nearby, it appears that residents are tired of corporations and politicians controlling the fate of local communities.

AES Corp. wonʻt be going away but with the passage of Tsuneyoshiʻs resolution future projects will have to step back, away from homes and schools. Moving forward it cannot be about clean energy at all costs. 

We definitely need to step on the EV pedal for clean energy. But in the pursuit of statewide goals, should it be clean energy at all costs? And is AES really the type of energy partner we want or trust? Either way, we need to ensure that frontline communities are prioritize so that climate resilience strategies are supported and whose benefits are distributed equally in our transition.

Read Resolution 19-305– Proposing an Amendment to Chapter 21, Revised Ordinances of Honolulu 1990 (The Land Use Ordinance) Relating to Wind Machines.