Judge dismisses suit against Hu Honua, county

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Claudia Rohr, second from right, sits outside Hilo Circuit Court with friends and supporters, from left, Gary Harrold, Rosemary Gonzalez and Koohan Paik-Mander.

A judge granted Hu Honua Bioenergy’s request for a summary judgment in a civil suit that sought to halt construction of the 30-megawatt biomass power plant in Pepeekeo until an environmental review is completed.

The ruling Thursday by Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura, in effect, dismisses a lawsuit filed Nov. 27 by Hilo bed-and-breakfast owner Claudia Rohr against the Hawaii County Planning Department and Windward Planning Commission. Hu Honua was brought into the litigation as a defendant in April.

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Nakamura said that, under law, “a judicial proceeding, the subject of which is the lack of an environmental assessment, must be brought within 120 days of an agency’s decision to carry out or approve the action.”

The judge agreed with Hu Honua’s argument that since amendment of the Special Management Area use permit Hu Honua is operating under occurred June 7, 2011, Rohr’s legal challenge wasn’t made in a timely manner.

The judge also rejected Rohr’s argument that Hu Honua’s request last year to the state Public Utilities Commission seeking preferential rates for the purchase of renewable energy produced by agricultural activities triggered the necessity for environmental review.

“The court’s view is that Hu Honua’s request to the PUC does not … for example, request approval of any use of land. … As such, the request does not trigger the requirement of an environmental assessment … ,” Nakamura said.

“Wow, unbelievable,” Rohr said after the judge announced his ruling.

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After the hearing, Rohr said she would appeal the decision.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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