Lease for Canadian firm solar project on Oahu challenged

HONOLULU — A business owner is challenging a solar energy project lease agreement between a Canadian company and the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

EC Trucking owner Edward Maria and the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations are challenging the agency’s action.

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Maria and the advocacy group are seeking a hearing to contest the approval of a lease on Oahu for Innergex Renewables USA.

The subsidiary of Quebec-based Innergex Renewable Energy Inc. received approval for a conditional lease of up to 147 acres, or 0.23 square miles, for a proposed solar energy project in Kalaeloa.

The commission that oversees the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands approved the deal with a 5-1 vote in July.

Maria and the homestead council questioned the practice of granting land from the department’s 317-square-mile trust to nonbeneficiaries. Maria is a DHHL beneficiary.

The federal trust created by the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act is aimed at benefiting those who are at least 50% Native Hawaiian by granting residential, farming and ranching homesteads for 99 years at an annual cost of $1.

The DHHL has a poor track record in meeting lease demand, according to critics who said it has made little progress on its waiting list of about 28,000 applicants.

“DHHL has lost its way. They’ve forgotten the purpose of the land trust,” said Robin Danner, homestead council chairwoman.

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Department spokesman Cedric Duarte defended the Innergex deal, noting the property was designated for renewable energy use.

“The department’s goal right now is trying to develop lots and get people off the waiting list and into homesteads,” Duarte said.

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