February, 1982 Home   Newsletters

March, 1982

April, 1982

Waikiki 2000 - A Slide Show and a Go-See Tour
President's Message (Barbara Farwell)
Action -- Clean Air - League Involved in Controversy (Barbara Farwell)
Membership Update
We Count on Vote Counts
New Home
U.N. - Is there a Doctor in the House? (Dottie Gullicksen)
Hear Ye! Hear Ye! - National Women's History Week
League Testifies
Something for Everyone - New Publications
Proposed Honolulu Program 1982-83
Something New for Annual Meeting
Proposed By-Laws Changes
Proposed Budget 1982-83

Action -- Clean Air

League Involved in Controversy

On February 11, I testified on behalf of the League against Hawaiian Electric's request for a Delayed Compliance Order which would allow the burning of high sulfur fuel at its Kahe plant. Because there has been so much controversy over this issue, I felt I should explain the points we made.

HECO presently burns low sulfur fuel at its Oahu plants. Low sulfur fuel is considered "clean", and its use has helped HECO to meet national ambient air quality standards.

Thus, our first point was that we believed it illegal within Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules for HECO to be granted a Delayed Compliance Order (DCO). A DCO is given to those companies that, for one reason or another, cannot meet air quality standards within a certain amount of time. A DCO gives them the extra time they need. HECO has been meeting standards since 1980. There is no need for a DCO.

Further, HECO could have chosen one of several ways to comply with clean air standards. HECO chose to burn low sulfur fuel, which is more expensive than high sulfur fuel. This method was not mandated by the EPA.

Second, HECO tied the receiving of a DCO with doing a feasibility study of seawater scrubbers -- a new technology for "cleaning" high sulfur fuel. Their argument is that a monitoring study, using high sulfur fuel, must be done to determine the content of sulfur in the fuel allowable within clean air standards, with or without the scrubbers.

We agree monitoring is needed but we don't believe burning dirtier fuel is required for it.

Third, we pointed out the precedent that issuing this DCO would set, both in Hawaii and on the Mainland. If HECO is allowed to burn dirtier fuel, how can others be denied the same right?

No one knows for certain the cumulative effects of pollutants on our environment, and the argument that the tradewinds blow Hawaii's pollution away is a specious one.

We also pointed out in testimony that there are health hazards from sulfur dioxide (the major pollutant from sulfur fuel) even at low levels. There is a high incidence of respiratory diseases along the Leeward Coast where the Kahe plant is located, and those with respiratory ailments are most susceptible to health problems from pollution.

The major argument used in favor of the HECO request was one of economics -- how much we all would save on electric bills if HECO could burn higher sulfur fuel. We did not address, as did some, the question of just how much those savings would be (figures from HECO varied), or how long the savings would last. But I quote from the final paragraph of our testimony which touched on the hidden costs of burning dirtier fuel:

"Yes, the cost of electricity in Hawaii is high. And HECO is proposing to reduce our monthly bills -- and at no cost. But the League of Women Voters does not believe that there will be no cost to the burning of high sulfur fuel. Rather, we believe that we will pay for this short term reduction over and over again, in the deterioration of our environment -- the ocean, the land, the air -- and most importantly, in the health of our people. While we support economical energy sources, this is not an acceptable tradeoff. The return to high sulfur fuel proposed by HECO is a threat to our health and our fragile island environment, and cannot be justified. As a nationally-affiliated organization, we are very much concerned by the nationwide implications of this request."

As of this writing, EPA has not announced its decision. Should it grant the HECO request, we are certain to be involved in a lawsuit as part of a coalition here in Hawaii. (The lawsuit would be based on the illegality of the DCO.) Anna Hoover has stacks of material if you wish more information.

Barbara Farwell

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