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City officials sue fossil fuel companies 

By: Geneva Diaz

7 November 2019

The City & County of Honolulu announced its intent to file suit against the fossil fuel industry Nov. 5 for “deceiving people about the known dangers of climate change and the resulting costs on Oʻahu’s taxpayers,” according to Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi.


Maui county, along with other states in the U.S., previously announced similar plans to file suit due to the rising sea levels on shorelines, damaging infrastructure causing unanticipated costs.

In support of the city’s decision to file suit, SCH is looking to shut down coal plants, like the AES Hawaiʻi Power Plant in Kapolei, because they claim comes down to a justice issue.

“They (coal-fired power plants) are extremely toxic and they’re an outdated energy source and… coal itself contains sulfur dioxide, heavy metals, arsenic, all these things that increase cancer rates, respiratory illnesses,” Watanabe said. “It’s creating a health crisis in the community.”

Hawaiʻi’s power plant companies have plans to retire the plants in 2022, but Watanabe says that’s not good enough.


“The actions we’re seeing as of right now is that they (AES Hawaiʻi Power Plant) are actually trying to increase their greenhouse gas emissions at a time when we (Hawaiʻi) are trying to shift away from fossil fuels… like dirty coal,” she said.

SCH’s group manager Lauren Watanabe said they are helping the city with the lawsuit because they want the industry to be held accountable on the “mass level change,” and shifting government policy is necessary.


“Since the 1960s, the fossil fuel industry knew that their products, oil, gas and coal, would cause detrimental impacts to the world’s climate. Instead of acting for the greater good, the industry doubled down on production… wasting valuable time to transition to clean energy and worsening the climate crisis,” Watanabe said. 

HECO Under Pressure


Hawaiian Electric Company has a 100% renewables goal that stretches over the islands. The goal will require replacing the old and expensive fossil fuel-based resources that have been in service for decades. 


The facility processes and burns up to 3,000 tons of solid waste to create electricity, which is then sold to HECO to distribute to customers. 

“HECO is under pressure to obtain a large enough energy grid-balancing service it needs to replace Oʻahu’s primary fossil-fuel-fired generators,” HECO Spokesperson Peter Rosegg said.


The power plant serves about one-sixth of Oʻahu’s peak demand for electricity and power.


The AES power plant at Campbell Industrial Park is currently the largest single generator on the Hawaiian Electric system. 

Both, Kahului and AES plants have been around for more than 20 years. 


Large companies like Exxon called the lawsuit "baseless," saying the investigations were "politically motivated."


"We look forward to refuting the meritless allegations in court," the company said in a statement regarding the lawsuits that are being filed nationwide on Big Oil companies.

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