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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 23, 2001

HECO plans 13-mile oil pipeline to Waiau

By James Gonser
Advertiser Leeward Bureau

KAPOLEI — Hawaiian Electric Co. wants to build a $27 million, 13-mile-long underground pipeline to carry oil from Campbell Industrial Park to its Waiau Power Plant in Pearl City, and has begun going door to door touting the plan.

HECO says the pipeline is needed to cut costs and assure uninterrupted electrical service, but opponents question the need for further investment in fossil fuel-dependent power sources and point to the early public relations campaign as an effort to fend off opposition to the project before all the issues have been aired.

 •  Public meeting

Hawaiian Electric representatives have made presentations before two neighborhood boards and will go before the Pearl City board next Thursday. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Pearl City Library.

Hot Line: HECO has set up a pipeline information number at 543-5665.

The pipeline would be HECO's third and would give the utility a dedicated line to each of its three power plants. The company already has pipelines from Campbell Industrial Park to its Kahe Power Plant and from Iwilei to its downtown power plant. The new pipeline also would be the longest and most expensive, though HECO said it would not cause electricity rates to rise.

Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land, a community and environmental think tank that opposes the pipeline plan, said other clean energy sources are either available now or will be.

"Hawai'i has the highest utility rates in the nation and the most abundant supply of renewable energy (solar) in the nation," Curtis said. "We think that HECO ... is ... guaranteeing they will have more of an income flow" from the pipeline and that it will not be needed in the future.

HECO spokesman Bruce Benson said there is no practical way to move away from fossil fuel. He said the company spends about $2 million a year on research and development looking at new, clean ways to produce electricity such as sunlight, wind, geothermal and ocean thermal energy, coal, trash and chemicals.

"It is not an either or proposition," Benson said. "We are continuing with what works and looking toward the future."

Though work is not expected to begin for more than two years, a team of HECO employees has been visiting residents and businesses near the pipeline's route to tell them about the project.

HECO expects to save about $30 million over the next 30 years by owning the new pipeline rather than leasing a Chevron pipeline. The savings will be passed on to shareholders and customers, and utility rates will not increase because of the project, Benson said.

"We are a stand-alone utility in an island in the middle of the ocean, so owning this critical part of the system, transporting fuel, is just another step toward self reliance," he said.

Hawaiian Electric burns low-sulfur residual fuel oil in boilers to make steam to turn generators that produce electricity.

Sierra Club Hawai'i chapter director Jeff Mikulina said the residual fuel oil HECO burns at its power plants is a heavy tar-like substance that is a major pollutant.

"Beyond the effects of being so oil dependent, we are worried about the effects of putting that stuff in the air over a growing region," Mikulina said. "We wouldn't even be talking about messy pipelines if we were more clean-energy based."

Mikulina also is concerned about potential spills from a new pipeline. In May 1996 more than 38,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into Pearl Harbor from a ruptured Chevron pipeline.

Benson said the residual fuel oil would be carried in 8-inch pipes using the most advanced coating and protection system to prevent leaks.

"High speed fiber-optic cables will be laid with the pipeline so we'll have continuous, instantaneous communications all along the line," Benson said. "Gate valves will be controlled by pipeline monitors, so if there is a pressure fault some place along the line it can instantly be shut off where the pressure is failing."

HECO spokeswoman Lori Hoo said big businesses often are criticized for not giving enough time for community input. Hoo said the company started its informational campaign now because it wants to hear residents' concerns before a draft environmental impact statement is published on the project early next year.

"Once we understand what the concerns are and the potential problems will be, when we get into construction, we can make adjustments," Hoo said.

After hearing HECO's plans, Makakilo/Kapolei/Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board member Michael Golojuch said residents' concerns include traffic delays, dust from construction proximity to homes and shopping areas.

Benson said said the pipeline will follow the state's "energy corridor" created specifically for fuel transport. Two other pipelines already are in place along the route, which goes around ecologically sensitive areas and minimizes the impact on surrounding communities. HECO will use a horizontal drilling machine to go under busy intersections so traffic lanes will not be closed. Construction areas will be sprayed with water at least twice a day to keep dust down.

Construction is expected to begin in 2003 take between six and eight months to complete but will be in any given neighborhood for only three to six weeks, Benson said.

Reach James Gonser at jgonser@honoluluadvertiser.com or 988-1383.