- A decision by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission on NextEra's proposed $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Industries could be delayed by an investigation into an anonymous complaint regarding former chief counsel Thomas Gorak, who last month was selected to serve on the commission.
- Hawaii Gov. David Ige selected Gorak to replace Commissioner Michael Champley when his term ended last month.
- But the 10-page anonymous report questions Gorak's tenure before he was tapped to serve on the commission, as well as details regulatory infighting impacting the NextEra-HECO decision and potentially other dockets.
Honolulu Civil Beat reports that PUC Chair Randy Iwase has asked Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin to investigate the anonymous submission, titled "ODC COMPLAINT," though the head of the commission has been publicly critical of the document. According to the news outlet, he called it a “smear complaint” against Gorak.
Ige's decision to replace Champley, a supporter of the NextEra-HECO merger, may have tilted the commission's balance just as it prepares to issue a decision. While Ige says he is unaware of how the PUC is preparing to decide, he has been a staunch critic of the deal. Should Gorak oppose the deal, it would likely fail.
According to Civil Beat, a vote to deny the deal would have Gorak and Iwase opposed and Commissioner Lorraine Akiba in favor.The complaint's "ODC" is presumed to refer to the Hawaii Supreme Court’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Ige said he delayed announcing Gorak as the new commissioner, expecting the PUC to issue a decision on the HECO-NextEra deal before Champley's term was up, but when the deliberations were delayed he had no choice but to move ahead with the appointment.
The majority of stakeholders have opposed the deal, with the exception of the Hawaii Department of Defense and the local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Ige is among those who oppose the deal, along with the state's energy agency and consumer advocate.
Most of the opposition stems from concerns over NextEra's Florida subsidiary's clean energy track record and worries that the deal would raise the island's already-high electricity rates. Hawaii plans to source 100% of its power from renewables by 2045, but critics say Florida Power & Light's track record could hurt progress toward that goal.