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Essay

The “Lobbyist on Lanai” left a community torn apart by Big Wind

Carleton Ching's involvement with the proposed "Big Wind" project on Lanai flies in the face of the governor's empty statement that Ching "brings communities together."

in Ige Administration in Land and Water Use in Molokai, Lanai wind energy in Hawaii wind power

Big Wind was Castle & Cooke’s effort to develop a huge (22,000 acres—1/4 of Lanai) industrial wind power plant for Oahu on Lanai. The project created a painful, long-lasting, almost irreparable divide in the previously-harmonious fabric of our small, rural community.

Carleton Ching was employed by Castle & Cooke then, working for Harry Saunders. Both men worked hard to push Big Wind on the Lanai community. Early in the project, I had a meeting with Harry Saunders to talk about their Big Wind project. I asked Harry this: “What would you do if there was a community vote on Lanai about Big Wind, and the community overwhelmingly said “No?” Harry’s response, indicative of Carleton’s perspective for his work on Lanai, was: “It may cost us more money, and it may take us more time, but it’s our land and we’ll do what we want.”

Carleton Ching was a Castle & Cooke (C&C) representative to C&C’s “Makani” group, the sole purpose of which (from 2009 to 2011) was to push C&C’s Big Wind agenda on Lanai. The agendas were set by C&C, questions posed were selectively answered by them, if at all, and the entire process was frustrating and demeaning. Mr. Ching’s work on this project was essentially to exacerbate the deep divisions in our community. He did NOT work to bring our community together, to find a common balance. Instead, he worked to push the very project that caused so much pain here; some neighbors and friends on Lanai are just now beginning to talk to each other again.

It was a money-making development project, pure and simple. Mr. Ching’s boss needed a quick fix of money (since his luxury homes idea was an abysmal failure) and he needed the community to get out of his way. Carleton was his “lobbyist on Lanai” for that destructive project, which, if it had gone through, would have destroyed or disrupted over one hundred identified Native Hawaiian cultural and natural resource sites. And, perhaps more relevant to this nomination, would have endangered the statewide use of 30,000 acres of land leased to DLNR for their state hunts.

I see Mr. Ching’s past work and track record on Lanai as a complete rebuttal to the Gov’s comments that Ching “helps bring communities together.”

At a January meeting on Maui, I asked Mr. Ching directly if he still supported Big Wind—a project that, today, according to both DBEDT and HECO, is“no longer needed.” Mr. Ching’s reply was a developer’s dream: he would still support it “if it pencils out.”

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