The Utility Dog and Pony Show

PUC a disgrace to Molokai residents, needs to stop “kowtowing to Mr. Gotbucks.”

Editorial By Robert Brokate

The Public Utility Commission (PUC) meeting in Maunaloa last Tuesday has once again highlighted the woeful inadequacies of our government’s civil servants. One was left in a quandary as to what is driving the PUC train, but whatever the driver may be it has drastically veered from the tracks.

The justification and purpose of a PUC is to protect the public’s interests (thus the name Public Utility Commission) against the abuses and wrongdoings of the utilities because by nature the utilities are monopolies and are prone to abuse and wrongdoing (recall the Enron energy debacle).

However, it appears that the Hawai’i PUC sees their function as not protecting the interests of the miscreant public. The Hawai’i PUC apparently interprets their function to be lackeys for billionaire Quek Leng Chang, who is the owner of Molokai Ranch’s parent company GuocoLeisure, to protect the interests of the Ranch against the ungrateful, malcontent public.

The Hawai’i PUC is in effect saying, “Yes, Mr. Billionaire, we (the Hawai’i PUC) will gladly exempt you from all of the nasty, tiresome nonsense of following the law and will do all of your dirty work for you. And any time you should step into something unpleasant, we will joyfully lick your boots clean.”
What the Hawai’i PUC is doing is going to open the floodgates for utilities throughout Hawai’i; any utility that wants a rate increase will just have to submit an unsubstantiated, unaudited, unverified income statement depicting a loss and the Hawai’i PUC will be compelled to fall all over themselves providing a “temporary rate increase.” The Hawai'i PUC is establishing the precedent with their current actions.

The Ranch has remedies available. They can sell the utilities. They can file for a rate increase as the law allows. Or they can file for bankruptcy and the court can take the assets and determine the proper course of action. It is not the Hawai’i PUC’s function to work for the Ranch when the PUC’s wages are paid by the public. The Hawai’i PUC should only explain the options available to the Ranch and explain that the Ranch cannot cease operations of their utilities without a court order releasing them of their public responsibility.

Should the Ranch follow through on their threat to cease operations without a court release, Maunaloa Highway would be bumper to bumper with tort lawyers eager to have former utility customers sign on to their class action law suits against the Chang, Ranch CEO Peter Nicholas, and probably the PUC.

So, Hawai’i PUC, quit kowtowing to Mr. Gotbucks; get off your knees and show a little self respect. You are embarrassing all of us. In the same breath, KUDOS to the County, Mayor Travares, et al, for their appropriate response and providing a ray of hope that our government is not totally dysfunctional.


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