BY JIM DOOLEY – The governor has signed bills authorizing two Big Island companies to issue as much as $140 million in special purpose revenue bonds to finance energy ventures.
Hawaii Democratic Party chairman Dante Carpenter is affiliated with both companies and testified this year and in past years on behalf of the bills and related measures.
One measure, HB 1286, authorizes BioEnergy Hawaii LLC to issue up to $100 million in bonds that would finance electricity cogeneration or production of biofuels.
Special purpose revenue bonds are not backed by the state but bestow tax benefits on the issuers and purchasers of the instruments.
Carpenter is a director of Pacific Waste, Inc., a managing member of the BioEnergy Hawaii venture.
BioEnergy Hwaii plans construction of a waste-to-energy recycling plant to be located in the Natural Energy Laboratory facility in Kona.
The firm won state approval in 2009 to issue $100 million in special purpose revenue bonds but has been developing an environmental impact statement since then.
Governor Linda Lingle signed the 2009 measure into law.
The new law, signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie last week, extends that bond authorization and adds new language that includes production of biofuels as one of the company’s activities.
Abercrombie last week also signed anther measure, HB423, authorizing issuance of up to $40 million in special purpose revenue bonds by Carbon Bio-Engineers, Inc.
Carpenter is an officer of that company and testified last year and this year in support of the bond financing.
He told legislators in written testimony this year that the company “has developed a hybrid gasification carbonization process which can reduce various organic feedstock and tires (non-fossil fuel) into carbon, synthetic gas and biofuel products.”
The company is working on the Big Island with the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, according to Carpenter.
“These projects will process a range of organic
streams from biomass green-wastes to tires to macadamia nut shells, among others,” he said.
Lingle vetoed the 2010 bond authorization bill, saying that Carbon Bio-Engineers had not “satisfactorily resolved issues associated with the patent and licensing” of the technology it uses to produce energy.
There are still unresolved patent issues regarding that technology, Jonathan Roberts, an official in the University of Hawaii Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development, told Hawaii Reporter last month.
Roberts said that UH had licensed technology developed by UH professor Michael Antal to Carbon Bio-Engineering.
“That license is not current,” said Roberts.
“They maintain that they have developed a technology separate from ours,” he said.
Tim Newberry, a marketing executive with Carbon Bio-Engineers, told Hawaii Reporter the company is not using Antal’s technology.
“We’ve made some major modifications to what he has presented,” Newberry said.
Patent attorneys consulted by the company said Carbon Bio-Engineers’ process “is not in conflict with the University’s,” said Newberry.
“Obviously the genesis of our system came from some of the work that Dr. Antal did, that’s for sure,” he continued.
“We would like to have a continuing working relationship with them. We’ve just got to figure out some of, all of what they’re looking for and of course what we can provide,” Newberry said.