Civil Beat: Dozens Of Climate Change Bills Went Down The Political Drain This Session

Hawaii 2040

There was a lot of talk about the need to address sea level rise and other problems but virtually no action in the Hawaii Legislature.

By Nathan Eagle    

The Hawaii Legislature nudged the islands toward an electric ground transportation sector this session and funded future studies on taxing carbon emissions and boosting overall sustainability.

But lawmakers largely avoided taking any bold action to prepare and protect the state from a rapidly changing climate before adjourning last week.

Dozens of bills to more aggressively address rising seas, stronger storms, longer droughts, increased wildfires and other forecasted threats to billions of dollars’ worth of coastal property, valuable reefs and the overall economy failed to pass, often without so much as a single public hearing.

That’s despite the session opening in January on the heels of several seminal state, federal and international scientific reports that underscore the urgency and heightened risk that Hawaii in particular faces as the world struggles to slow down global warming from greenhouse gas emissions.

Gov. David Ige and leaders in the Legislature vowed to step up the state’s efforts to address climate change after President Donald Trump pledged to pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord and started rolling back federal clean energy initiatives.

Although there have been plenty of promises and goals to move Hawaii in that direction, the pace to implement them has been slow.

“I’m not sure why our leaders in the Capitol feel that we can wait before considering the many thorny problems we will encounter as we build a just, equitable, sustainable and resilient community that is fully adapted to the flooding related to sea level rise,” says University of Hawaii professor Chip Fletcher, a leading expert on climate change.

He was disappointed that specific efforts to address sea level rise in the islands failed to gain traction. 

Several of those measures would have incorporated sea level rise planning into state laws and included the recommendations of the state’s 300-page report on sea level rise adaptation and mitigation, released in 2017 per a legislative request.

Fletcher was similarly dismayed by the defeat of a bill that would have added the words “sea level rise” and “climate change” to the state’s coastal zone management law.

“Are there climate change deniers in the Hawaii Legislature?” Fletcher said.

Kimiko LaHaela Walter of the Hawaii Democratic Party’s Environmental Caucus said the proposed changes could have helped the state protect its sandy beaches and the properties and infrastructure behind them.

“Sea level rise is a reality, and it is necessary to revise our statutes accordingly,” she said.

More than 13 miles of beach statewide have already been lost to erosion fronting seawalls and revetments, according to a University of Hawaii study. The proposed law would have encouraged developments to move farther from the shoreline instead of armoring properties, according to the Sierra Club.

Versions of the bill in the Senate and House had progressed this session but died when signals got crossed between lawmakers on which measure should ultimately be the vehicle to move forward.

Studies have shown that the value of all structures and land projected to be flooded by a 3.2-foot rise in sea level by the end of this century amounts to more than $20 billion. That doesn’t include the compounding effect on tourism, the state’s economic driver, or other industries.

More than 500 Hawaiian cultural sites are expected to be flooded and 20,000 residents are anticipated to be displaced. But there was no real movement this session on implementing the state’s plans for managed retreat or sea level rise adaptation.

The last National Climate Assessment, released by the Trump administration in November, says that “continued increase in the frequency and extent of high-tide flooding due to sea level rise threatens America’s trillion-dollar coastal property market and public infrastructure, with cascading impacts to the larger economy.”

Sen. Karl Rhoads, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, was disappointed in the session’s outcome on the climate front.

“It just didn’t feel like much urgency,” he said. “And if there’s ever an issue to be panicked about and show some urgency on, this is it. I don’t know what would be worse — you can already see the effects here.”

Rhoads recognized the nation-leading goals that the Legislature has set to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in the electricity sector, for instance. But he said now is the time to safely go from studying to doing.

“All the rest is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said.

EV Surcharge And New Energy Czar

The Legislature sent some mixed signals too.

The state has some the nation’s strongest environmental goals, including reaching 100 percent carbon neutrality by 2045 and building an entirely renewable electricity sector by the same time.

But lawmakers passed a bill by a wide margin that will make it more expensive to own an electric vehicle. Senate Bill 409 slaps a $50 annual surcharge on EV registration fees.

The theory behind the measure is that EV owners, who account for about 1% of all registered vehicles, aren’t paying their fair share for state roads because they don’t pay the gasoline tax at the pump.

But as critics pointed out, the bill not only discourages EV adoption — which is contrary to state goals — it also fails to recognize that people driving gas-powered vehicles aren’t paying their share for the destruction those emissions cause.

Only Reps. Nicole Lowen, Calvin Say, Cynthia Thielen, Tina Wildberger and Sens. Les Ihara, Donna Mercado Kim, Russell Ruderman and Laura Thielen voted against it.

Melissa Miyashiro of Blue Planet Foundation said the new $50 registration fee, set to take effect Jan. 1, underscores the need to take a holistic view of the state’s much-needed transition to clean transportation.

“We need to make sure that our transportation policy as a whole is incentivizing — rather than penalizing — moving away from dirty fossil fuels,” she said. “We’re certainly in favor of everyone paying their fair share. That’s why we support establishing a tax on carbon pollution — ensuring that those who pollute pay their fair share for contributing to our climate crisis.”

The state won’t be taxing carbon emissions anytime soon. A proposal from Rhoads cleared the Senate but died in the House. Others died without a hearing.

A carbon pricing study did receive funding though, in the amount of $150,000. That’s expected to be fruitful, but it’s unclear when it will get done or who will do it.

Hawaii would be the first state to implement this type of tax, so there was a reluctance to rush into it.

“This is a complex tool with a number of choices to be made in how it is configured,” Fletcher said. “Legislators will need information that can come from this study when they consider how to price carbon-based activities in developing future policies. Let’s hope there are committed leaders in the Legislature who will push to implement the study findings and not let it sit on a shelf and collect dust.”

Lowen helped secure the funding for the study, which got tacked on at the end of session to a House Bill 852, which emboldens the state energy office.

That measure underscores how energy comprises one-eighth of the state’s overall economy, with electric bills for public facilities and public transportation services eclipsing $400 million annually.

Miyashiro said the bill has the potential to prevent over half a billion dollars of energy waste over the next 15 years.

Aside from establishing the Hawaii state energy office as an attached agency to the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, the bill creates a chief energy officer position who will be subject to Senate confirmation.

So it’s also a power play by the Legislature, which ribbed Ige’s administration this session over various appointees and policies. Senate and House leaders endorsed his opponent before he won re-election last year, and while they say they’ve put the election-year politics behind them, this session marked a notable reassertion of their authority as the lawmaking branch.

Lowen, who chairs the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, said that lawmakers delivered more on the climate front than the media has portrayed. News outlets last month aired the frustrations of  environmental groups who held a mock funeral over the death of several dozen climate-related bills.

“We passed some important steps forward that are maybe more practical than flashy but important nonetheless,” she said.

EV Charging Station Rebates

While acknowledging the lack of anything notable on sea level rise, Lowen said key energy bills did pass.

Hawaii will be the first state to codify appliance efficiency standards thanks to House Bill 556, a top priority for groups like Blue Planet, Ulupono Initiative and Sierra Club. Starting Jan. 1, 2021, the law applies to certain products, such as computers and monitors, shower heads and faucets, fluorescent lamps and sprinklers.

“Energy efficiency is the most important but most under-appreciated emissions reduction tool there is, and it lowers utility bills at the same time,” Lowen said.

Under House Bill 1585, the state will create a rebate program for the installation or upgrade of EV charging stations in publicly accessible commercial areas, workplaces and multi-unit dwellings, according to a House release. But the rebate won’t apply to single-family residences or parking stalls reserved for individual use.

“We want everyone to have the choice to use a low-cost electric vehicle, not just those that live in single-family homes or can easily charge at home,” Miyashiro said, noting pent-up demand.

Supporters said this helps lay the groundwork for an EV future in Hawaii, but others lamented the Legislature’s decision to not require new construction of multi-family and commercial buildings to make a certain percent of parking stalls ready for EV chargers. That measure, Senate Bill 1000, died in the final days of the session.

“We have a lot of work to do next session to advance meaningful policies that make clean transportation options more affordable for everyone and don’t reward choosing climate-changing gasoline vehicles over clean, cost-saving electric vehicles,” Miyashiro said.

$150K For Sustainability Plan

The Legislature also passed House Bill 1558, which requires the Office of Planning to update the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan before the start of the 2021 legislative session. It says the plan “shall serve as the state’s climate and sustainability action plan to determine future actions guiding the coordination and implementation of Hawaii’s sustainability and climate adaptation goals, principles and policies.”

Lawmakers in 2005 had required 10-year updates of the plan but did not give any funding beyond fiscal year 2007 for state agencies to do the work. This bill provides $150,000 for the next update.

Next year, Lowen said a top priority for her will be sea level rise, building resilience and microgrids.

“Time is of the essence,” she said, “but it’s normal that some of these bigger bills take a couple years.”

Meanwhile, the forecast remains dire and reports show the need to act faster. The National Climate Assessment, for instance, says there is a need for “more immediate and substantial global greenhouse gas emissions reductions, as well as regional adaptation efforts” to avoid the most severe long-term consequences.

The report adds that mitigation and adaptation actions also present opportunities for benefits that are often more immediate and localized, such as improving local air quality and economies through investments in infrastructure.

It’s as much about money as the environment. The report underscores that “with continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century — more than the current gross domestic product of many U.S. states.”

Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case said in a statement Friday that she appreciates the Legislature’s consideration of a wide array of proposed measures to curb Hawaii’s reliance on fossil fuels and to reduce carbon emissions, the leading cause of global climate change.

“Since this was the first legislative session in a two-year cycle, climate change and carbon reduction bills are still pending,” she said. “We and all the numerous organizations and people engaged in climate change solutions will continue working with legislators to work out urgently needed legislation.”

Case noted that the state is nonetheless moving forward, thanks to the Legislature passing measures for clean transportation infrastructure and vehicles such as EVs.

“These strategic changes help Hawaii meet its goals in very real ways,” she said.

Case also noted that the Legislature passed significant funding to protect critical watersheds across the state, one of Hawaii’s most critical climate change vulnerabilities and adaptation challenges.

Ige has until June 24 to submit a list of any bills he intends to veto to the Legislature. He then has until July 9 to actually veto any of those measures, sign them or let them become law without his signature.

Link to original article: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/05/dozens-of-climate-change-bills-went-down-the-political-drain-this-session/

Post-Conference Update

From advocating for good bills, to killing bad bills, and watch-dogging for the resurrection of the water theft bill, we've been practically living at the Capitol over the past few weeks and riding the emotional rollercoaster that is legislative session.

Yesterday all the remaining bills needed to pass out of conference committee, where House and Senate conferees draft a final version of the bill. Over the next week, the bills that passed conference require a final reading from the House and Senate. If approved by both chambers, these bills are sent to the Governor for consideration. 

The bad news. Here are the bills we liked that died in conference:

These bills died because they did not get House/Senate conferees assigned, did not get scheduled for a conference hearing, or did not get approval from the Finance and Ways and Means Committee's to move forward.

  • HB 765 - Planning for sea level rise

  • HB 1191 and SB 789 - Raising the minimum wage

  • HB 1487 - Honolulu sea level rise pilot project

  • SB 412 - Automatic voter registration

  • SB 1000 - Requiring new buildings to be electric vehicle charger ready

The good news. Here are the bills we liked that passed conference:

  • HB 401 - Public agencies to implement vehicle fleet energy efficiency programs

  • HB 551 - Extending the work/funds for the cesspool conversion plan

  • HB 556 - Hawai‘i to adopt electric appliance efficiency standards

  • HB 808 - Species protection for rays

  • HB 852 - Restructuring the State Energy Office and appropriating funds for a carbon tax study

  • HB 1548 - Appropriating $750k to combat Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death

  • HB 1558 - Appropriating funds for a 2050 Sustainability Plan Update

  • SB 301 - Taxation of Real Estate Investment Trusts

  • SB 375 - Strategic Plan to double local food production by 2030

  • SB 390 - Appropriating funds for SNAP beneficiaries to receive "double bucks" for local produce

  • SB 522 - Establishing a plastics reduction working group

  • SB 1353 - Establishing an industrial hemp program

More good news, a few bills that we opposed were sucessfully deferred in conference too:

  • HB 307 - Broadening the definition of "renewable energy" and amending the solar tax credit 

  • HB 1025 - Authorizing extension of public land leases 

Overall, we were most effective in stopping several bad bills from passing and were successful in advancing a handful of environmental bills this session, helping to set the path for advocacy in the interim to ramp up and prepare for the 2020 session and upcoming election. I hope you will continue to engage with us as we build power and grow Hawai‘i's movement to advance a progressive environmental agenda that is rooted in equity and justice. 

Lastly, we want to extend a sincere mahalo to everyone who has been answering our calls of action- whether that be calling or emailing your legislators, showing up to testify, sharing posts on social media, and sending us kind words of encouragement. This work is challenging, yet so important, and having the support of our members and allies has meant so much to the Sierra Club ‘ohana. 

Gov. Ige Carries Water for A&B

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Marti Townsend, 808-372-1314

Gov. Ige Sides with A&B Over Public’s Interest in Protecting Streams

Sierra Club responds to Gov. Ige’s Statement

Today, Governor David Ige issued a statement urging lawmakers to pass HB1326 HD2, a bill that extends temporary permits for access to water to 13 permit holders.  Four of those permits, held by Alexander & Baldwin, were invalidated by a circuit court ruling in 2016. Passing HB1326 HD2 would allow A&B to circumvent the court ruling and retain $62 million from the sale of their central Maui sugar plantation to Mahi Pono.

In response, Marti Townsend, Director for the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi issued this statement:

We are deeply disappointed in Governor Ige’s decision to use the power of his position to pressure lawmakers to pass a version of HB1326 that guarantees A&B retains $62 million in profit from East Maui’s public stream resources.  We went to the Governor’s office yesterday in good faith to collaborate on a proactive path forward for small water users based on existing legal authority. The Governor betrayed that good faith with a statement that attempts to influence lawmakers to change a decision that has already been made, attempts to justify sidestepping a court ruling, and specifically names the opponents of the bill that he met with but not the supporters.

This crisis is manufactured.  The Ige Administration was granted a three year extension on the issuance of these revocable permits in 2016, immediately after the circuit court decision in the Carmichael case was issued. In that three years, DLNR did not propose any fixes to Haw. Rev. Stat. §171-58, did not adopt regulations to clarify their implementation of this statute, or otherwise actually attempt to solve this problem.  DLNR staff did continue to renew holdover permits, and issued a letter to the 9 other revocable permit holdovers that only served to fuel concern for their future access to water.

What did actually happen in the three years since the last extension was granted is, A&B:

  • Closed its sugar plantation in central Maui, laying off hundreds of workers

  • Converted its corporation to a Real Estate Investment Trust, to reduce its tax burden for all the commercial real estate it profits from

  • Sold its defunct sugar plantation to Mahi Pono for $262 million.

The contract for that land sale makes clear that if the new buyer does not have guaranteed access to 30 million gallons of water a day from East Maui streams through 2026, then A&B will return $62 million to the new buyer.  HB1326 HD2 would extend A&B’s current four temporary water permits through 2026 with zero recourse for the residents of East Maui.

Governor Ige’s statement fails to acknowledge the legal responsibilities of his Administration to protect public trust resources from exploitation. This is an obligation that has been repeatedly upheld by Hawaiʻi’s highest court of law. Instead his statement feigns fairness by claiming to support equal treatment for all permit holders.

Yet, the different entities relying on these permits for access to public water resources are not all the same.  Of the 13 permits at issue, four are held by A&B, arguably one of the most powerful and influential corporations in the Hawaiian Islands. The four permits held by A&B have been invalidated by a court of law, and that decision is on appeal. The remaining 9 permits are held by two utilities operating hydroelectric power plants, and seven smaller entities and individuals watering crops and animals. None of these 9 permits have been challenged in a court.

After 6 hours of verbal testimony, hundreds of calls and emails from constituents, and over 600 written testimonials received in opposition to HB 1326 HD2, the Senate Water and Land Committee, chaired by Senator Kaialiʻi Kahele, crafted a version of this bill that addressed the perceived needs of the small water users and utilities, while respecting the judicial process. If Governor Ige were truly interested in helping small water users, and not advancing the special interests of A&B, then he should have made a statement in support of that bill. Unfortunately, he did not. At least now everyone knows where he stands in regards to the last of the Big 5 companies that once dominated the Hawaiian Islands.

The Ige Administration has all the legal authority it needs to provide access to public trust water resources. It is time to DLNR to take seriously its responsibility to protect the public’s natural resources from exploitation.

###

Gut-and-replace options for Water Theft Bill

We’ve heard commitments from Senators that they will not be moving to resurrect the Water Theft Bill and we all have our eyes on the House, watching for any “gut-and-replace” manuevers. Despite the bill being considered “dead” for this session, Alexander & Baldwin and other diverters have been meeting with Governor Ige and lawmakers asking that they make HB1326 HD2 happen somehow…so in response, here’s a list of bills that are still alive (heading to conference committee) that could possibly be used to resurrect the language of HB 1326 HD2 via gut-and-replace:

HB 307 - Relating to Renewable Energy

HB 439 - Relating to Land Use

HB 1025 - Relating to Lease Extensions on Public Lands

HB 1219 - Relating to Public Lands

HB 1405 - Relating to Dept. of Land and Natural Resources budget

**HB 1405 currently provides $6M in state funding to LNR404, money to help complete the Environmental Impact Statements’ necessary for Kaua‘i and Big Island diverters to work towards long-term lease applications

HB 1532 - Relating to Administrative Procedures

HB 1546 - Relating to Environmental Protection

HB 1558 - Relating to Sustainability

HB 1562 - Relating to Dept. of Agriculture Operating Budget

HB 1585 - Relating to the Environment

SB 223 - Relating to Irrigation

**SB 223 currently transfers portions of the East Kaua‘i irrigation system from the East Kaua‘i Water Users Cooperative to the Dept. of Agriculture and provides a two-year extension for the Cooperative’s stream diversion works permit.

SB 375 - Relating to Agriculture

SB 381 - Relating to Agricultural Lands

SB 491 - Relating to Dept. of Agriculture

SB 711 - Relating to Agricultural Land

SB 752 - Relating to Agriculture

SB 754 - Relating to Agriculture

SB 759 - Relating to Agriculture

SB 760 - Relating to Agriculture

SB 908 - Relating to Sustainability

SB 1148 - Relating to Agriculture

SB 1150 - Relating to Dept. of Agriculture

SB 1151 - Relating to Dept. of Agriculture Loans

SB 1167 - Relating to Agricultural Enterprises

SB 1303 - Relating to Public Lands

SB 1436 - Relating to Agriculture

SB 1526 - Relating to Conservation Enforcement

There may be other potential options not on this list and we will be monitoring hearings and floor sessions to ensure our legislators don’t resurrect HB 1326 HD2 in any form. Legislative session ends on May 2nd- it’s not over until it’s over.

Bills Alive at Second Crossover

Below is an update of bills that have made the second crossover deadline, when bills have passed third reading in their non-originating chamber and “cross back” to their originating chamber. From here, bills will get assigned to a Conference Committee that will meet to discuss the differences between amendments made in the House and Senate drafts. The Conference Committees will need to agree on a final version of the bill by April 25th for non-fiscal bills or April 26th for fiscal bills. The bill’s conference draft will then need to pass final reading by both the House and Senate by May 2nd, the last day of legislative session. Then the bills head to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

Carbon Free Hawaiʻi

  • Carbon Pricing

    • Now HB 1487, formerly HB 1584 – [Support] Office of Planning to conduct a comprehensive study of a statewide carbon tax.

  • Clean Energy

    • HB 307 – [Oppose] Broadens the definition of "renewable energy" as used in the public utilities commission law to include other self-replenishing non-fossil fuel, non-nuclear resources. Amends the renewable energy technologies income tax credit by, among other things, including commercial seawater air conditioning systems.

    • HB 556 – [Support] Requires the department of business, economic development, and tourism to adopt minimum appliance efficiency standards for certain products sold or installed in the State that are substantially equivalent to existing appliance efficiency standards established in California.

  • Clean Transportation

    • SB 409 – [Oppose] Establishes an annual vehicle registration surcharge fee for electric vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles to be deposited into the State Highway Fund.

Planning for Rising Seas

  • HB 765 – [Support] Requires incorporation of sea level rise projections in all new plans and updates to existing state plans generated under the Hawaii State Planning Act and the plans of the Public Utilities Commission.

  • HB 1487 – [Support] Establishes the Honolulu shoreline climate protection pilot project to develop a plan to protect urban Honolulu from the impacts of sea level rise, floodwater, storms, and other impacts of a rapidly changing climate. Appropriates funds to the Department of Land and Natural Resources for the development of the Honolulu shoreline climate protection pilot project.  Appropriates funds to the Office of Planning to conduct a comprehensive study of a statewide carbon tax.

Protecting Freshwater and Marine Ecosystems

  • HB 551 – [Support] Extends lapse date for funds appropriated to the University of Hawaii to conduct a comprehensive statewide study of sewage contamination in nearshore marine areas. Extends lapse date for funds appropriated to the Department of Health to conduct research or gather technical assistance relating to the cesspool conversion working group's comprehensive cesspool conversion plan.

  • HB 808 – [Support] Establishes an offense of knowingly capturing, taking, possessing, abusing, entangling, or killing a shark in state marine waters, along with penalties and fines. Expands the existing prohibition on knowingly capturing or killing a manta ray in state marine waters to apply to all rays and to also include knowingly taking, possessing, abusing, or entangling a ray. Provides certain exemptions.

  • HB 1405 – [Support w/ amendments] Adjusts the operating budget for the fiscal biennium 2019-2021 for certain Department of Land and Natural Resources programs (appropriates $6M for Environmental Impact Statements for County of Kaua‘i and County of Hawai‘i water permits).

  • SB 223 – [Watching] Transfers operational authority over portions of the East Kauai Irrigation System operated and maintained by the East Kauai Water Users' Cooperative as of July 1, 2019, to the Department of Agriculture. Provides a conditional extension to acquire required permits. Establishes staffing positions. Authorizes general obligation bonds for a statewide irrigation system capital improvement project. Appropriates funds.

Waste Reduction

  • SB 522 – [Support] Single-use Plastics Working Group.

Common Good Coalition

  • Automatic Voter Registration

    • SB 412 – [Support] Automatic Voter Registration for driver's license and identification card applications.

  • Taxation of Real Estate Investment Trusts

  • Social Services

    • SB 390 – [Support] Department of Agriculture to create a dollar-for-dollar match program for beneficiaries of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program who purchase Hawaii-grown produce.

  • Minimum Wage

    • SB 789 – [Support w/ amendments] Changes minimum wage rates annually from 1/1/2020, to 1/1/2024. Provides lower minimum wage rates for employees who receive employer-sponsored health benefits under the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act. Includes persons with disabilities under generally applicable minimum wage requirements.

    • HB 1191 – [Support w/ amendments] Provides an income tax credit for qualifying small businesses to offset the increase in the minimum hourly wage that employers must pay employees. Increases the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour beginning 1/1/2020 and $15.00 per hour beginning 1/1/2023. Establishes a minimum wage of $17.00 per hour for any person employed in a full-time position with the State of Hawaii beginning upon approval of the Act. Tax credit applies to taxable years beginning after 12/31/2019.

Resolutions:

  • HCR 55 – [Support] Requesting the Governor to convene a working group to make recommendations on the consolidation of state environmental functions and the establishment of a Department of the Environment.

  • SCR 31 – [Support] Designating the Hawaii State Capitol building and its grounds as a single-use plastic free zone.

  • SCR 184 – [Support] Requesting the United States Army Corps of Engineers, State of Hawaii, and City and County of Honolulu to establish a working group to explore matters related to the Ala Wai Watershed.

Civil Beat: Hawaii Lawmakers Have Largely Dropped The Ball On Slowing Climate Change

Efforts to address the effects of a warming planet on a vulnerable island state have mostly fallen short this session.

By Nathan Eagle    

Original article here.

The Aloha State won’t be taxing carbon emissions to combat climate change anytime soon after the Legislature balked on bills to do so this session.

Homeowners won’t have to tell potential buyers if they live in an area at increasing risk of flooding due to rising seas. Coal won’t be banned, or the sale of new gas-powered cars. And Hawaii land use laws won’t be strengthened to protect beaches and coastal communities.

Lawmakers opened the session in January with dozens of climate-related bills and a sense of urgency to address the looming effects of a warming planet.

But, with less than three weeks to go, only a handful of measures remain and most amount to more studying and planning.

Not all is lost. A few bills would at least steer the state in the right direction, according to legislators, climate scientists, environmental groups and labor organizations.

Lawmakers are still moving forward with bills to study carbon pricing options, provide money for meaningful updates to the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Plan and establish an emboldened energy office that has the resources and authority to carry out broad initiatives that are already on the books, such as making the state carbon neutral by 2045, greening the ground transportation sector and going 100 percent renewable for electricity.

Melissa Miyashiro, Blue Planet Foundation’s chief of staff, said the clean-energy nonprofit is disappointed in the demise of some of the bolder measures but still excited about three bills in particular that are headed into conference committee — the process at the end of each session where House and Senate negotiators try to reach agreement on the final drafts.

“There’s always more that we could be doing because we are facing the biggest challenge that humankind has ever faced and we don’t have a lot of time to shift the trajectory,” she said Wednesday.

Miyashiro was encouraged that House Bill 556 had survived. It would require the state to adopt minimum appliance efficiency standards for certain products, such as computers and monitors, shower heads and faucets, fluorescent lamps and sprinklers.

“It’s about saving consumers money while also lowering the carbon footprint,” she said, noting that a recent study found Hawaii has the biggest opportunity for savings of any state because of its soaring electricity costs.

Miyashiro was hopeful that House Bill 1585 would make it through, too. It would create a rebate program for electric vehicle charging systems. Lawmakers have yet to put any numbers in the bill, but the purpose is to help build out the charging infrastructure throughout the state so more people can switch to EV cars.

It could also help address a “chicken-and-the-egg issue” for upping the number of electric rental cars, which would curb an incredible amount of emissions given Hawaii’s 10 million visitors each year.

Hotels say there isn’t much demand, so they don’t want to invest in charging stations, Miyashiro said. But rental car companies say there aren’t many places to charge vehicles, so their customers don’t want electric cars.

Groups, including Blue Planet, are worried that a separate EV measure would be at odds with state and county clean-energy and carbon-neutrality goals. Senate Bill 409would make it more expensive to own an electric vehicle by adding a registration surcharge fee.

The idea behind the bill, introduced by Sen. Lorraine Inouye, is to have EV owners pay their fair share for road maintenance, since that comes from the gasoline tax. But Blue Planet, Tesla and others said that would send the wrong signal and is premature since fewer than 1% of registered vehicles in Hawaii are electric.

Miyashiro said it is also important to wait for the Department of Transportation to finish its road usage study, which would charge vehicle owners a fee based on how many miles they drive instead of how much gas they use.

“We’re just a little hesitant about scaling back incentives for electric vehicles when that study is still ongoing and we’re still at such an early stage for adoption,” she said.

Ground transportation accounts for 27% of Hawaii’s petroleum use. Electric power is another quarter, air transportation is 32% and marine transportation and other uses account for the rest, according to state figures for 2016.

State Energy Czar

Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, wants the Legislature to quit reacting to everything that comes up each session and become more proactive.

He said lawmakers will have a more serious discussion about the EV surcharge bill and others in conference committee. But he said some of the structural changes in government that he supports — namely, a more powerful and centralized state energy office — would solve many of these debates.

A version of Senate Bill 1259, introduced by Sens. Glenn Wakai, Dela Cruz, Kidani and Maile Shimabukuro, was resurrected last week after it died in the House. Dela Cruz and Wakai stuck a beefier version into House Bill 852. That had been a budget bill for energy and environmental programs but it got absorbed into a broader spending measure.

HB 852 would establish a chief energy officer, subject to Senate confirmation, and lay out the direction for the state energy office, ranging from providing analysis on renewable energy and clean transportation goals to leading efforts on energy resiliency and engaging the privateer sector to help.

Its latest draft provides $2.3 million in general funds for each of the next two fiscal years.

Dela Cruz said the different sectors for renewable energy have lobbied for tax credits and priority consideration. Instead, he would rather see lawmakers be more aggressive in laying out how the state plans to achieve its ambitious environmental goals.

“We should be setting the stage,” he said.

The bill notes how climate change is expected to cost the state $19 billion in sea level rise alone, making the switch to renewable energy and the ultimate reduction of carbon emissions even more of a priority.

University of Hawaii climate scientist Chip Fletcher, who co-authored the state’s seminal sea level rise study, said the session has had its share of disappointments but there have been minor successes.

“From where we stand right now, I give us a C,” he said.

The Legislature provided $205,000 in the state’s overall $16 billion budget to continue funding a climate change coordinator position, which had been in question. Anu Hittle currently holds the job, which involves working with the state Climate Commission on its efforts to help the state adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

An overdue update to the Coastal Zone Management Act is dead this session.

Sam Lemmo, who heads the state Office of Coastal and Conservation Lands, had said this was a critical part of a “Climate 3.0” initiative that he envisioned to empower the executive branch to address climate change by moving beyond setting goals. He declined to comment for this story.

Senate Bill 393, introduced by Dela Cruz, cleared the Senate but went on to die in the House without a hearing. A similar measure, House Bill 549, introduced by Rep. Nicole Lowen, had a similar outcome — passing the House but then eventually dying in the Senate without a hearing.

Both would have provided substantial updates to the CZM law.

Asked why HB 549 didn’t get a hearing from Ways and Means, Dela Cruz said he thought his bill was still alive in the House. He said there’s still a slight chance it could be resurrected before the session ends.

“There was miscommunication about which version of the bill would move forward and by the time we wanted to hear it the deadlines were already passed,” Lowen said.

HB 549 would have required new developments to plan for the impacts of projected sea level rise and prohibited development in areas significantly affected by projected sea level rise. It also would have toughened coastal armoring policies.

The measure noted that 70% of Hawaii’s beaches are chronically eroding and more than 13 miles of beach have been lost to erosion fronting seawalls and revetments.

The bill had support from the Sierra Club, state and county agencies, the Democratic Party and others but was opposed by the Chamber of Commerce and Building Industry Association of Hawaii.

The chamber raised concerns about infringing on private property rights. In its testimony to lawmakers, the chamber said the proposed amendments would make it more difficult for homeowners to protect or improve their coastal properties and questioned who should compensate the landowner for their loss.

Lowen, like Dela Cruz, said it was disappointing that the bills died.

“There’s always next year,” she said.

A separate shoreline protection bill, which has support from the chamber and unions, is moving forward.

House Bill 1487, introduced by Lowen and Rep. Chris Lee, establishes a pilot project to protect urban Honolulu from sea level rise, floods, storms and other effects of a rapidly changing climate.

Its latest draft included $2 million so long as the City and County of Honolulu pays for half, which seems uncertain.

Josh Stanbro, who heads Honolulu’s climate change office, said the city will “explore the potential to allocate resources to this effort in the future should matching funds become available.”

The influential carpenters union, which has helped propel candidates to higher office, backs the proposal.

The union testified before lawmakers that the building industry is particularly sensitive to future impacts of climate change, including rising water tables, subsiding land and coastal erosion.

“It’s not over yet,” Lowen said. “We just have to wait and see what happens.”

HB 1326 back from the dead! Email the senate TODAY!

We need to act now!  A&B’s senators are pulling out extraordinary measures to pass A&B’s preferred version of the HB1326, which would allow them to continue to divert streams for seven more years and retain $62 million from the sale of their land.  

ICYMI: Thursday, in decision making in its joint hearing in the Senate Committees on Water and Land and Ways and Means, HB 1326—the “Water Theft Bill” was killed… but now it’s possible it’s a zombie and it’s coming back. Click here to take action.

Summary of this week

HB 1326 was heard in its joint WTL/WAM hearing on Tuesday, April 2. After more than 6 hours of testimony—majority in opposition, only 2 in support, and over 700 written testimony submitted—604 against, 100 comments and 40 in support, members of the committees moved to defer decision making until Thursday, April 4th.

Thursday, WTL Chair Kahele introduced an amended bill that would cut out A&B—essentially stopping them from receiving any more extensions on their temporary permits to divert water, while also ensuring that small ranchers and farmers would have access to the water they need. WTL voted 3-2 to pass the amended version (Sen. Kahele, Riviere, and Nishihara in favor; Sen. Fevella and Keith-Agaran against; Sen. English absent).

Quickly after, WAM Chair Dela Cruz called for a recess, counted his votes, reconvened and moved to defer the bill indefinitely. Typically this means that the bill is dead for the session but more shenanigans ensue...

Where we are now

We knew it was possible the bill could come back from the dead, we just didn’t know exactly how. Now we know that A&B’s senators are working to get enough votes to bring HB 1326 to the floor. If A&B’s senators are successful in bringing the bill to the floor, then they will need 13 votes to pass the measure. They will be voting on HB1326 HD2. This is the version that passed over from the House (7-year extension to A&B and farmers), not the version with Sen. Kahele’s thoughtful amendments (3-year extension to only farmers, conditions on DLNR). This is because WAM deferred the bill before they voted on it, so it was not fully amended by the joint committee.

If HB1326 HD2 passes the Senate floor vote, then it will go directly to the Governor for signature. It will bypass the House because HB1326 HD2 is the exact same bill the House already passed out.

Which brings us to… ALL HANDS ON DECK. Let’s flood the senators’ inboxes, asking them to vote down this zombie bill once and for all. Click here to email all 25 senators, urging them to not favor A&B’s financial interests over the best interests of the streams and the people.

We need our senators’ to VOTE NO on HB 1326 HD2. Click here to take action.

THEN MEET US AT THE CAPITOL ROTUNDA TUESDAY 4/9 AT 9:30am TO RALLY TO FREE THE STREAMS!

Civil Beat: Water Rights Bill Goes Down The Drain In ‘Historic Vote’

Hawaii

The land company Alexander & Baldwin is among the big losers after senators can’t agree on a proposal to allow stream diversion to continue.

By Chad Blair    / April 4, 2019

Original article here.



Legislation to allow the land company Alexander & Baldwin, farming and ranching operations and two utility companies to extend their permits to divert stream water died late Thursday.

The deal-breaker was a proposed last-minute amendment to House Bill 1326 that would have removed A&B from the bill. Some senators refused to support it without A&B being granted the extensions along with the other water-users.

The result shocked supporters of the bill, some of whom shouted “no!” and completely stunned opponents, including one environmentalist who called it a “historic vote.”

The Water and Land Committee voted 3-2 in favor of the new draft, but Sen. Donavan Dela Cruz, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, deferred a vote in his committee during the joint meeting.

That effectively kills HB 1326 for this year, barring unprecedented legislative maneuvering and a waiver of internal rules by the Senate. Friday is the deadline for bills to advance out of their final committees for this session, which concludes May 2.

Even if the legislation is somehow resurrected, it is clear that senators are far apart on whether to accept the new draft from Water and Land Chair Kai Kahele, or to revert to a bill that keeps A&B in the game.

As Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, vice chair of both committees, pointed out, the House of Representatives would not likely accept a bill that originated from its chamber but was radically altered by the Senate.

Keith-Agaran represents Maui, where A&B has diverted water on the eastern side of the island for decades. Sen. J. Kalani English, the majority leader whose district includes East Maui, was the only member of either committee not in attendance for the vote.

When the vote finally came, Kahele and Sen. Clarence Nishihara voted in favor of Kahele’s draft, which would also have cut the extension of the water permits from seven years to just three. Sen. Gil Riviere voted with reservations, which means “yes.” Sens. Kurt Fevella and Keith-Agaran voted no.

Dela Cruz then immediately called for a recess. It was not clear whether the 12-member Ways and Means Committee would have voted for the revised bill, but several of its members — including Kahele and Riviere — are also on the Water and Land Committee.

When Dela Cruz announced WAM’s deferral, there was an audible gasp from the audience in Conference Room 211.

Most senators then quickly exited the room.

‘This Bill Was Intended To Provide For A&B’

Afterward, Marti Townsend, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii, called the developments “a historic vote.”

She also said it confirmed the view of many opponents that HB 1326 was intended to help A&B all along.

“I feel that this really makes clear that this bill was intended to provide for A&B, and if the amended version didn’t provide for A&B, the Senate wasn’t going to pass it,” she said.

Darren Pai, a spokesman for A&B, issued a statement:

We are extremely disappointed that HB 1326 failed to pass today and especially disheartened that the opposition managed to make this all about A&B, when in fact hundreds of farmers and ranchers on our neighbor islands will be negatively impacted because there is now no legal mechanism to renew essential state water permits beyond the end of this year.

Pai added that “this bill was about Hawaii’s future — not Hawaii’s past.”

The impasse on HB 1326 came following nearly six hours of often heated testimony on the bill Tuesday, most of it in opposition.

HB 1326 was opposed by environmental groups, taro farmers and many Native Hawaiians who believe it favored A&B and violated the public trust on water use. It was supported by ranchers, farmers and utilities who want to divert water for their respective enterprises.

The amended version of the bill introduced by Kahele was emailed before the hearing, which started at 4 p.m. Hard copies were also distributed, and Kahele made a point of reading it word for word to make sure it was “crystal clear,” as he put it.

The new amendment read in part:

Specifies that the authorization for the issuance of holdover permits does not apply to holdovers or pending lease applications that concern a use or disposition of water rights that is otherwise legally prohibited or invalidated by a court of law.

That language specifically regards A&B because a state Circuit Court ruling in January 2016 prohibited the company from using four revocable permits to authorize permanent diversions of stream water in East Maui. The ruling, which is on appeal, led to legislation that year that allowed the company to use the permits until 2019.

Kahele on Thursday said the amended version of HB 1326 would allow the small ranchers and farmers on Maui, Kauai and the Big Island, as well as Hawaii Electric Light on the Big Island and the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, to extend their water use until 2022.

The amended bill would have also put the onus on the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to submit by 2022 a plan for approval of long-term water leases. There would also be restrictions on lessees that use less than 2 million gallons of water a day unless their use of the water is “consistent with the public trust.”

The public trust stipulates that water is a public resource.

DLNR and the Commission on Water Resource Management would have also been required under HB 1326 to study whether Hawaii’s long-term water use laws make it “appropriate” for the DLNR to issue the leases.

If not, the agencies would have to make specific recommendations to fix the laws.

Kahele said his draft marked a “new chapter” in how the state manages water, one he described as transparent and accountable.

All that is now moot, however.

A&B Never Testified

Much of Thursday’s meeting of the Senate panels involved asking questions of officials from DLNR, the Attorney General’s office, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation and A&B.

Senators wanted more information on how A&B had come to seek the permit extensions and how HB 1326, in its modified form, might impact the company’s sales agreement with Mahi Pono, which bought A&B’s former sugarcane lands in Central Maui.

Kahele asked Meredith Ching, the company’s executive vice president of external affairs, why it never testified on HB 1326 either in writing or in public.

Ching, who was present at Tuesday long hearing, said she was never asked to testify.

Star-Advertiser: Senate panel shelves bill on access to public water

HAWAII NEWS

By Sophie Cocke 

April 5, 2019

Updated April 4, 2019 10:43pm

A Senate committee Thursday killed a bill that would have allowed an assortment of utilities, landowners, ranchers and farmers to continue accessing public water under revocable permits while they worked to satisfy stringent state requirements for obtaining long-term leases.

The move by Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, who chairs the Senate Ways and Means Committee, jeopardizes the continuation of hydroelectric plants on Kauai and Hawaii island, as well as ranchers’ access to water for cattle operations, while also satisfying staunch critics of Alexander &Baldwin, which was allowed by the state to divert hundreds of millions of gallons of water annually from streams in East Maui for its sugar cane operations.

It’s not clear why Dela Cruz shelved the bill. But Sen. Kai Kahele, chairman of the Water and Land Committee, who tried to amend the bill Thursday to allow all users except for A&B to maintain their water use, said it could be “catastrophic” for small ranchers and farmers.

“If you interpret the law as DLNR has been interpreting it and the deputy attorney general has been interpreting it for the last three years, the Land Board does not have statutory authority to issue a revocable permit … for 2020 for water, which has major ramifications for small farmers, small ranchers, small businesses, the island of Kauai, the utility company, its ability to generate hydroelectric power,” Kahele told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser after the hearing. “It’s very disappointing. It’s a sad day.”

“I think we had an opportunity today to turn a new chapter on water use and the public trust in the state of Hawaii, and unfortunately, that chapter, we are not going to see it. It is very disappointing.”

The bill had sparked strong opposition from groups such as the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. and Hawaii Sierra Club which argued it benefited A&B to the tune of $62 million.

A&B recently sold extensive tracts of land in Central Maui to Mahi Pono LLC, a farming venture that is hoping to replace the company’s former sugar cane fields with diversified agriculture. A&B stands to lose $62 million if water to the land is disrupted, according to the sale agreements.

Opponents argued that A&B was essentially trying to profit off of public-trust water resources and labeled House Bill 1326 the “water theft bill.” The Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., on behalf of taro farmers and other residents of East Maui, spent nearly two decades battling A&B over its water diversions.

Dela Cruz’s decision to shelve the bill came as a shock to people who packed a hearing room in the state Capitol on Thursday afternoon for a joint hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee and Senate Water and Land Committee.

Kahele had just put forward a proposed compromise. The Board of Land and Natural Resources could continue allowing entities to access public water under short-term revocable permits, unless those permits or water rights had been prohibited or invalidated by the courts. The compromise meant all the water users could continue having their permits renewed annually, except for A&B.

In 2016 an Oahu Circuit judge invalidated A&B’s permits that allowed them to divert East Maui stream water, saying that the temporary permits, which dated back years, shouldn’t have been renewed annually.

Hawaii law stipulates that water permits should not be extended beyond a year.

The ruling, which is under appeal, highlighted problems with all of the department’s water permits.

In addition to A&B, others accessing water under the short-term permits include Kuahiwi Ranch, East Kauai Users Cooperative, Hawaii Electric Light Co., Kapalala Ranch, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Jeffrey Linder, Edmund Olsen Trustee and Wood Valley Water &Farm Cooperative.

In 2016, in response to the court ruling, A&B and other water users successfully lobbied legislators to pass Act 126, which gave them three years to convert their water permits into leases. But that end-of-the-year deadline is now fast approaching, and none of the water users affected have successfully converted their revocable permits into leases.

That process includes conducting environmental reviews, a watershed conservation plan, consulting with Native Hawaiians as to their potential water needs and, for many, bidding on the water at a public auction. The water also must be appraised.

A&B and others hoped that the Legislature would extend this year’s deadline. Earlier this year the House moved House Bill 1326 over to the Senate, which would have extended it by seven years — which is the same length of time that A&B could be on the hook to pay Mahi Pono $62 million if a certain amount of water wasn’t accessible for its operations.

The bill drew heated protest earlier this week when it was heard by the joint Senate committees with testimony lasting for nearly six hours. The committees reconvened Thursday to make a decision on the measure. Dela Cruz didn’t explain why he killed the bill, but his move elicited confusion and gasps from the people in the hearing room.

Kahele’s proposed version of the bill, which would have excluded A&B, had just narrowly passed his Water and Land Committee.

Kahele’s proposed amendments to House Bill 1326 had gained the support of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs earlier in the day when trustees voted in favor of it.

“For far too long, our state has managed Hawai‘i’s water in favor of for-profit enterprises at the expense of our environment and the rights of Native Hawaiians and kalo farmers, including our beneficiaries in East Maui,” said OHA Chairwoman Colette Machado, OHA Maui trustee Hulu Lindsey and OHA Chief Executive Officer Kamana‘opono Crabbe in a joint statement issued prior to the hearing.

Marti Townsend, executive director of the Hawaii Sierra Club, said after the hearing that it was disappointing that Kahele’s proposal didn’t pass.

“Our concern has always been the excessive diversion of streams for private profit,” she said, adding that Kahele’s measure “was a perfect balance.”

A&B spokesman Darren Pai said in a statement after the hearing that the company is “extremely disappointed” the bill didn’t pass and criticized opponents for focusing on A&B when others would be affected as well.

“It’s confounding how our state policymakers can say they are supportive of local food production and increasing Hawaii’s food and energy self-sufficiency, then cut off the water from the farmers and ranchers who fulfill these mandates,” said Pai. “This bill was about Hawaii’s future, not Hawaii’s past.”


Call Chair Dela Cruz and request SLR bill hearings

We started with a list of 14 climate change and sea level rise bills, and now only 4 remain! These 4 sea level rise bills need your help—they need to be scheduled in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

Take a sec this week to call the chair of WAM, Sen. Dela Cruz, to ask him to hear HB 461, HB 549, HB 765, and HB 1487 in his committee. Call him at 808-586-6090 and email him at sendelacruz@capitol.hawaii.gov.

You can state your support for the 4 bills by saying:

“Aloha Chair Dela Cruz, my name is _____ and I’m a resident of ______. Please hear the following four bills in WAM: HB 461, HB 549, HB 765, and HB 1487. These bills relate to climate change, coastal planning, and sea level rise. They would incorporate SLR projections and hazards into our state plans, prevent coastal hardening to protect our beaches, and support innovative projects and funding to address climate change. These are the only sea level rise bills still alive this session and we need your leadership and support. Please hear and pass these bills.”

Additional info on the bills that you may add to your calls and emails:

HB 461 - This bill requires the Hawai‘i Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission to utilize the findings of the latest Sea Level Rise Report and identify and incorporate sea level rise predictions within public infrastructure planning and investment processes, to work with state and county agencies to develop sea level rise adaptation plans, and make further climate change mitigation and adaptation recommendations to the Legislature. This bill also appropriates funds to help the Commission execute this work.

HB 549 - This bill requires new developments to plan for the impacts of projected sea level rise and prohibits development in areas significantly affected by projected sea level rise. It updates Chapter 205A-the Coastal Zone Management Act, to incorporate sea level rise within its objectives, policies, and permitting processes. This bill will help prevent the loss of beaches and public access caused in large part by granting of shoreline setback variances, especially as we enter a new era of sea level rise. As the sea level rises we can expect a increase in the number of applications to armor coastal properties with seawalls and revetments. HB 549 helps to guard against further shoreline hardening and protect our coastal ecosystems.

 HB 765 - This bill requires incorporation of sea level rise projections in all new plans and updates to existing state plans generated under the Hawaii State Planning Act. It provides the legislative mandate needed to implement findings and recommendations from the “Hawai‘i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report” prepared by the Hawai‘i Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission, especially those recommendations dealing with climate change hazards and mitigation in an era of sea level rise. This bill is a good first step to ensure our agencies incorporate and evaluate the latest sea level rise projections.

HB 1487 - This bill establishes and appropriates funds for the Honolulu shoreline climate protection pilot project to develop a plan to protect urban Honolulu from the acute impacts of sea level rise, floodwater, storms, and other impacts of a rapidly changing climate. The coastline of urban Honolulu will be a particularly important and challenging area to protect in the face of rising seas and more frequent flooding and inland inundation. HB 1487 directs the Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission to plan a system of coastal protection for “sea level rise exposure areas” within urban Honolulu, creating a shoreline buffer from the Honolulu International Airport to the Diamond Head State Monument.

Mahalo for your support!

Support two clean energy bills before Thursday, March 28th

We are amplifying this action alert sent from our clean energy partner Blue Planet Foundation. Two clean energy bills are getting a hearing this Thursday: Your support matters now more than ever to getting these bills to the finish line. See below for instructions and sample testimony for both measures. 

Please submit testimony for these bills: 

HB 556: Appliance Efficiency Standards

This measure will save Hawaii residents $537 million and 34 billion gallons of water, and prevent the emissions of 700,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide over 15 years. These standards are already in place in California and other states, and it would be easy to adopt them in Hawaii. Read the bill here


SB 1000: Electric Vehicle Ready Buildings

One of the biggest barriers standing between consumers choosing electric vehicles over fossil fuel vehicles is a lack of adequate charging options in the state. This measure will ensure that at least 20% of parking stalls in newly constructed commercial and multi-family residential buildings in Hawaii are ready for electric vehicle (EV) charging. Read the bill here

INSTRUCTIONS FOR HB 556: APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY STANDARDS

When: Please submit testimony BEFORE 9:30AM, WEDNESDAY, 3/27. 

How: 

  • Send an email to the Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Health: CPHtestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov

  • In subject and body of email, be sure to state you are testifying in support of House Bill 556, "Relating to Energy Efficiency."

  • Explain the reasons for your support. See sample testimony below, and check out our fact sheet for more ideas. 

  • Sign your email with your full name. Include your city, state, and zip code. 

  • See sample text for testimony below. Feel free to copy and paste into your message, and to modify as you see best. 

  • You can also submit testimony directly on the Hawaii State Capitol website, but you'll need to create an account first. 

  • Share with friends!

Sample testimony: 

TO: CPHtestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov
SUBJECT: Support for HB 556, "Relating to Energy Efficiency," March 28, 2019, 9:30AM hearing

Aloha Chair Baker, Vice Chair Chang, and members of the Committee,

I am testifying in support of House Bill 556, "Relating to Energy Efficiency."

This is an important bill that protects Hawaii consumers from energy wasting appliances that drive up our already high utility bills. I support Hawaii adopting Appliance Efficiency Standards as it will save Hawaii residents $537 million and 34 billion gallons of water, and prevent the emissions of 700,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide over 15 years.

Products and technologies meeting these standards are readily available today from multiple manufacturers. Most of them have no incremental cost, meaning they do not cost more than inefficient models, and consumers will start saving right away.

These standards are already in place in California and other states, and it would be easy to adopt them here.

In light of these facts, I support the passage of House Bill 556.

Thank you for considering my testimony.

[Sign your full name, and list your city, state and zip code] 

INSTRUCTIONS FOR SB 1000: ELECTRIC VEHICLE READY BUILDINGS

When: Please submit testimony BEFORE 2:00PM, WEDNESDAY, 3/27. 

How: 

  • Send an email to the Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce: CPCtestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov

  • In subject and body of email, be sure to state you are testifying in support of Senate Bill 1000, "Relating to Electric Vehicles."

  • Explain the reasons for your support. See sample testimony below.

  • Sign your email with your full name. Include your city, state, and zip code. 

  • See sample text for testimony below. Feel free to copy and paste into your message, and to modify as you see best. 

  • You can also submit testimony directly on the Hawaii State Capitol website, but you'll need to create an account first. 

  • Share with friends!

Sample testimony: 

TO: CPCtestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov
SUBJECT: Support for SB 1000, "Relating to Electric Vehicles," March 28, 2019, 2:00 PM hearing

Aloha Chair Takumi, Vice Chair Ichiyama, and members of the Committee,

I support SB 1000 to ensure that at least 20% of parking stalls in newly constructed commercial and multi-family residential buildings in Hawaii are ready for electric vehicle (EV) charging.

Buildings would not be required to install the actual charging equipment. Instead, they merely need to incorporate, at the construction phase, the wiring and conduit necessary for later installation of an EV charger. Installing that wiring and conduit post-construction is up to 91% more expensive for residents and tenants wishing to install an EV charger.

One of the biggest barriers standing between consumers choosing electric vehicles over fossil fuel vehicles is a lack of adequate charging options in the state. This is especially true for the many Hawaii residents that live in apartments and condos, who don’t currently have the luxury of charging an EV at home or at work.

Please pass SB 1000 to expand access to EV charging options. Thank you for considering my testimony.

[Sign your full name, and list your city, state and zip code] 

Star-Advertiser: Bill to put solar farms on prime ag land elicits stiff opposition

By Sophie Cocke 

March 25, 2019

Developers would be allowed to put solar farms on prime agricultural land under a measure that has passed key legislative committees but is eliciting strong protest from Gov. David Ige’s cabinet while dividing farmers and environmental groups.

Critics say the bill was introduced to benefit Ho‘ohana Solar, a company that is trying to build a 52-megawatt solar farm on a 352-acre site in Kunia. Part of the project is slated for prime farmland, but building it there is currently prohibited under state law.

“It is a slippery slope we are going down, taking our prime ag land,” said Henry Curtis, executive director of Life of the Land, an environmental and community action group, during a joint Senate hearing before the Water and Land Committee and the Energy, Economic Development and Tourism Committee earlier this month. “We need to revitalize agriculture. We need to bring it back as a full-force industry and we can’t do that by decimating our best lands.”

Currently, developers and landowners can put utility-scale solar farms that feed energy into the islands’ electric grid on agricultural land so long as the parcel’s productivity rating is below “B.” House Bill 593 would allow solar farms to be placed on ag lands rated “A,” which the state has deemed as the best for growing crops.

The measure is opposed by the state Department of Agriculture, the state Office of Planning, the Hawaii Farm Bureau and the Hawaii Sierra Club. However, it has attracted the support of Richard Ha and Dean Okimoto, well-known farmers who in recent years shut down their crop operations.

Both Ha and Okimoto said the state needs to start melding farming with renewable-energy projects to boost the financial sustainability of agriculture.

Ho‘ohana Solar says it aims to do just that. Much of the state’s highest-rated ag lands have been fallow for a long time because farmers are having difficulty making the numbers work, said Larry Greene, project manager for the solar developer.

The company is owned by FCHQC Development, a joint venture of 174 Power Global and Forest City Sustainable Resources, according to filings with the Public Utilities Commission. The land is owned by Robinson Kunia Land LLC.

Greene said the project has been developed in partnership with farmers who would cohabit the land. Under an agreement with the company, farmers could lease land at below-market rates on a long-term basis with access to electricity, chillers, processing facilities and security.

Phyllis Shimabukuro- Geiser, director of the Department of Agriculture, testified in opposition to the bill, arguing that Hawaii’s top-rated ag lands are scarce. About 3 percent, or 56,000 acres of the 1.83 million acres of state lands classified as agricultural, are A-rated, according to the department.

Shimabukuro-Geiser couldn’t say how much of that is being farmed.

The bill has been controversial among lawmakers.

“I cannot speak more vehemently against this measure,” said Sen. Gil Riviere (D-Heeia-Laie-Waialua) as he cast his vote in opposition earlier this month. “In my mind it is an abomination. We are trying to save ag land. We go through this rigmarole for saving important ag land, promoting agriculture, getting more people on the land, farm to table, farm to school … . We use these fancy words because it cloaks us in this, ‘Oh, we’re doing the right thing.’

“This is what people want: People want fresh food, they want more local produce, and here, by the very definition of this bill, we are forestalling the future of our very best ag land. This is a travesty.”

Sen. Kai Kahele (D-Hilo), chairman of the Water and Land Committee, disagreed, saying Hawaii needs to find other financial models to support agriculture.

“I think we are providing a future for our children. I think the era of agriculture that we have been doing for the last 40 years since the plantation industry has closed has not been successful,” he said. “I would like a more strategic plan for the Department of Agriculture. I would like to see us look at this concept of blending renewable energy with agriculture on a limited scale to address the real challenges and concerns that local farmers all over Hawaii are having every day.”

A Senate version of the bill died earlier this session. The House version, after it crossed over to the Senate, notably was not assigned to the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee, even though it deals squarely with agriculture. The bill likely would have died in that committee.

Kahele has amended the measure so that it can bypass conference committees, a final step in the legislative process in which key members of the House and Senate come together to negotiate bills. However, the bill still needs to be heard by the Senate Ways and Means Committee before going to the full Senate for a vote.

Second Lateral Bill Updates

Below is an update of our bill priorities as of second lateral, when bills must move to their final committee in their non-originating chamber.

Carbon Free Hawaiʻi

  • Carbon Pricing

    • HB 1584 – [Support] Office of Planning to conduct a comprehensive study of a statewide carbon tax. WAM.

  • Clean Energy

    • HB 307 – [Oppose] Broadens the definition of "renewable energy" to include other self-replenishing non-fossil fuel resources. EET/CPH.

    • HB 550 – [Support] Amends the definition of "renewable portfolio standard" to more accurately reflect the percentage of renewable energy use in the State. CPH/WAM.

    • HB 556 – [Support] Establishes minimum appliance efficiency standards for certain products sold or installed in the State. Requires the public benefits fee administrator to educate and train appliance manufacturers, distributors, and retailers about the appliance efficiency standards. CPH.

Planning for Rising Seas

  • Strengthening Coastal Zone Management Laws

    • HB 549 – [Support] Requires new developments to plan for the impacts of projected sea level rise and prohibits development in areas significantly affected by projected sea level rise. Amends policies and objectives related to coastal zone management to reduce residential exposure to coastal hazards and protect state beaches and public shoreline access. Defines "beach" and "coastal hazards". JDC/WAM.

  • Sea Level Rise planning

    • HB 461 – [Support] Requires the Hawaii Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission to conduct certain activities to address the impacts of sea level rise and report to the Legislature before the 2021 Regular Session. Appropriates funds for the Commission's activities and to fund the Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Coordinator. WAM.

    • HB 765 – [Support] Requires incorporation of sea level rise projections in all new plans and updates to existing state plans generated under the Hawaii State Planning Act. WAM.

    • HB 1487 – [Support] Establishes the Honolulu shoreline climate protection pilot project to develop a plan to protect urban Honolulu from the impacts of sea level rise, floodwater, storms, and other impacts of a rapidly changing climate. Repeals on 6/30/2022. Appropriates funds. WAM.

Protecting Freshwater and Marine Ecosystems

    • HB 1326 – [Oppose] Allows holdover permits for stream diversions to continue until 2026. WTL/WAM.

    • HB 808 – [Support] Establishes an offense of knowingly capturing, taking, possessing, abusing, entangling, or killing a shark in state marine waters, along with penalties and fines. Expands the existing prohibition on knowingly capturing or killing a manta ray in state marine waters to apply to all rays and to also include knowingly taking, possessing, abusing, or entangling a ray. Provides certain exemptions. Effective 7/1/2050. JDC/WAM.

    • HB 551 – [Support] Extends lapse date for funds appropriated to the University of Hawaii to conduct a comprehensive statewide study of sewage contamination in nearshore marine areas. Extends lapse date for funds appropriated to the Department of Health to conduct research or gather technical assistance relating to the cesspool conversion working group's comprehensive cesspool conversion plan. WAM.

    • SCR 35 – [Support] Urging the U.S. EPA and the Hawaii Department of Health to reject the approval of a single wall tank upgrade alternative option for the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility and the conclusions presented in the Groundwater Protection and Evaluations Considerations Report dated July 27, 2018.

    • SB 696 – [Support] Extends various reporting deadlines and the sunset date of the cesspool conversion working group established pursuant to Act 132, Session Laws of Hawaii 2018. Extends the lapse dates for funds appropriated to conduct a comprehensive statewide study of sewage contamination in nearshore marine areas and for research and technical assistance necessary for completion of the comprehensive cesspool conversion plan. FIN.

Land Use and Development

    • HB 593 – [Oppose] Authorizes the development of utility scale solar projects on class A agricultural lands, subject to certain requirements. Repeals 6/30/2025. WAM.

    • HB 1403 - [Oppose] Requires approval of a permit application submitted by a housing development project that uses moneys from the rental housing revolving fund if a county does not issue a decision on the application within sixty days, subject to certain requirements. Exempts the foregoing projects from environmental impact statement requirements until an update to administrative rules regarding exemptions to environmental impact statement requirements takes effect. WAM.

Administrative

  • HB 1171 – [Support]. WAM. DLNR-DOFAW operating budget bill that would provide $5M to programs including:

    • Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Council (HISC) prevention, early detection-rapid response, control, and outreach projects;

    • Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death (ROD) research and response; and

    • Wildfire response.

  • HCR 55 - [Support] Requesting the Governor to convene a working group to make recommendations on the consolidation of state environmental functions and the establishment of a Department of the Environment. FIN.

  • HCR 198 - [Support] Requesting the Legislature to convene a working group to discuss the economic growth potential of investing in green industry initiatives. FIN.

Waste Reduction

  • Plastics

    • HB 762 – [Support] Prohibits providing straws unless requested. JDC.

    • SCR 31 – [Support] Designating the Hawaii State Capitol building and its grounds as a single-use plastic free zone. WAM.

    • SB 522 – [Support] Single-use Plastics Working Group. FIN.

  • Recycling

    • SB 893 – [Support] Prohibits counties with a population less than 500,000 from rejecting number 1 and 2 plastic bottles presented for recycling solely because the bottles are accompanied by or adjoined to nonrecyclable bottle caps. Requires and appropriates funds for the counties to separate and appropriately dispose of such nonrecyclable bottle caps. Requires the counties to include a feasibility assessment of recycling PP materials. FIN.

Common Good Coalition

  • Automatic Voter Registration

    • HB 1217 – [Support] Automatic Voter Registration for driver's license and identification card applications. JDC.

    • HB 1485 – [Support] Establishes a process for automatically preregistering or registering public school-enrolled students who are at least 16 years old.

    • SB 412 – [Support] Automatic Voter Registration for driver's license and identification card applications. FIN.

  • Taxation of Real Estate Investment Trusts

  • Social Services

    • SB 390 – [Support] Department of Agriculture to create a dollar-for-dollar match program for beneficiaries of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program who purchase Hawaii-grown produce. FIN.

Enact automatic voter registration to modernize elections

EDITORIALISLAND VOICES

by Jodi Malinoski 

When there is virtually no opposition and an outpouring of support for a bill that only promises to improve our civic life, decision-making for our lawmakers should be easy.

The Sierra Club of Hawai‘i, on behalf of its 20,000 members and supporters, joins several other advocates in supporting the enactment of automatic voter registration (AVR) via Senate Bill 412 and House Bill 1217. As an organization that often advocates for underrepresented communities facing environmental challenges and injustices, we see this as progress toward ensuring that those communities where voter turnout has historically been low have an easier path to participating in the democratic process.

By making registration automatic whenever someone gets a driver’s license or updates their address at the DMV, voters are more likely to be ready to vote when Election Day rolls around. We welcome that — and so should our lawmakers.

AVR is the logical next step in modernizing our electoral system by eliminating needless paperwork. It has been estimated that paper registration costs 30 times more than AVR. The possibility of human error in transcribing voter information from paper forms will be reduced and the state could save the nearly $600,000 it spent in 2016 alone in processing paper forms.

These are considerable benefits that should encourage lawmakers to make AVR a reality without delay. And if it also can help restore Hawaii’s once high voter turnout, that alone should make lawmakers run, not walk, to make it happen.

The Sierra Club of Hawai‘i is committed to ensuring a fair, open and transparent democratic process. We encourage our members and supporters to actively protect their right to vote, have their voices heard in government, and consistently engage in the legislative process.

Automatic voter registration would make these efforts just that much easier for many Hawaii residents. It will also give more eligible voters the ability to make sure their voices are heard in pushing back against corporate interests that are seeking to monetize our natural resources at the expense of local communities and the health of our ecosystems.

Having among the lowest voter turnouts in the U.S. for the last 20 years is a distinction we need to shed. Never has it been more important for people — particularly working families, homebound seniors, students, and voters in rural areas — to participate in upholding good governance and advancing sound, informed public policy that reflects the will of the people and not corporate interests.

In a state where the high cost of living results in many workers juggling two or more jobs, any reduction in the bureaucracy surrounding registering to vote is something we should all welcome. Automatic voter registration will strengthen our democracy, increase the security of our elections, and is simply the most cost effective, accurate, modern and efficient system available.

It falls squarely within our elected officials’ public commitment to innovation in government to better serve everyone’s needs.

We commend the lawmakers who are working to expand the electorate by making it simpler for all eligible people to register to vote, no matter where they live, how educated they are, or how much money they make.

It is the duty of all our representatives to enact AVR this session. There is no reason to delay.

Civil Beat: Hawaii lawmakers are considering bills that force sellers to tell prospective owners about vulnerable coastal properties

Buyer Beware: Oceanfront Homes Keep Going Up Despite Rising Seas

By Nathan Eagle 

The waves lap indifferently against the rocky revetment that guards a crumbling stretch of Kamehameha Highway in Kaaawa.

Immediately on the other side of this coastal road that connects several windward Oahu communities, workers are framing up the wooden beams of a new two-story house.

Sturdy Foundations, a Honolulu residential development company owned by Amanda and Michael Gregg, bought the empty 6,000-square-foot lot in October for $410,000 and by November had a permit to build a 1,700-square-foot home on it.

No one from the company returned a call seeking comment for this story. But it’s clear they plan to sell the property as soon as it’s done. The Sturdy Foundations website advertises an oceanfront home, just steps from Kaaawa Beach. A slideshow features artist’s renderings and photos of a palm leaning over a smooth stretch of sand.

But on a recent Monday morning, there is little to no beach. The tides fluctuate, and there is sand at certain times, but the beach is disappearing as sea levels rise and erosion intensifies.

Scientists have projected that this stretch of highway will be at least partially flooded with just a half foot of sea level rise, forecast for 2030. When it rises 3 feet, expected by the end of this century or sooner, mapping tools show the whole road and entire property will be underwater.

Now, Hawaii lawmakers are considering whether homeowners should have to tell buyers that their property is in a sea level rise exposure area — or SLR-XA as planners call it.

The state Climate Commission and top climate experts have all recommended mandatory disclosure.

Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case told a Senate panel last month that it is critical for buyers to understand the hazards and risks they are assuming in purchasing oceanfront property, “in the spirit of transparency and disclosure and to support informed decision-making by buyers and government agencies.”

But the Hawaii Association of Realtors, representing 9,500 members, wants disclosure to remain voluntary.

Ken Hiraki, the group’s lobbyist, told lawmakers that the association opposed the bills because it would create an “unreasonable burden” on the typical seller, who he said lacks the capacity or ability to know if the property is in a sea level rise exposure area.

He also noted that the association already has an oceanfront property addendum to disclose pertinent information about owning a coastal home. He did not return a message seeking comment for this story.

Environmental groups, lawmakers and others note that publicly available online mapping tools show the scale of potential flooding and erosion with sea level rise.

The Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report, published in December 2017 and adopted by the Climate Commission, includes a map viewer that lets users see the projected exposure areas at a half foot on up to 3.2 feet of sea level rise, as well as potential economic loss and flooded highways, passive flooding and coastal erosion.

Under legislation put forward this session, the Climate Commission would officially designate the exposure areas based on these maps.

It’s not unlike other disclosures that must be made when selling residential property, including special flood hazard areas, noise exposure areas and tsunami inundation zones.

Sen. Karl Rhoads, who introduced one of the mandatory disclosure bills, said he did not see the big deal in accessing a website to see if you live near an exposure area and having the buyers and sellers acknowledge that during the sale.

“Our whole response to global warming is a bit baffling to me,” he said. “It’s as close to an existential crisis as we’re likely to see, absent a nuclear exchange, and it just doesn’t feel like we’re taking it very serious.”

There’s a lot of coastal property at stake in Hawaii. The sea level rise report estimates the value of all structures and land projected to be flooded by a 3.2 foot rise in sea level at more than $20 billion.

The Gregg’s property in Kaaawa is hardly the only oceanfront home under construction. There’s one just up the road and many others around the state. 

And people are continuing to buy oceanfront properties. Angela and Guy Farr bought the home next door to the Sturdy Foundations lot two years ago for $728,000, records show. They could not be reached for comment.

But not everyone dreams of living by the sea anymore.

Just up the road in Hauula, residents like Maureen Malanaphy are wondering how they will protect their properties from rising seas, more frequent storms and chronic erosion. Some neighbors are actively looking for places to move farther inland after spending a generation living on the coast and seeing firsthand how the environment has changed in recent years.

It’s spurred requests for seawalls and other emergency shoreline hardening. The DLNR has been under intense pressure from landowners, Case said, to permit shoreline protection such as seawalls and rock revetments, even though such armoring is discouraged by state laws, departmental administrative rules and county rules.

“The science is clear that installing coastal armoring on a chronically eroding beach typically leads to beach narrowing and loss,” she told lawmakers in testimony supporting the mandatory disclosure bills.

“There’s no escaping the fact that we’re going to have to deal with sea level rise in Hawaii.” — Rep. Nicole Lowen

Coastal changes aren’t just affecting homes and roads. Kualoa Regional Park, a couple miles south of Kaaawa, was once lined with postcard-perfect palms. The city cut many of them down when the erosion became too much to control. Stumpy root balls dot the shoreline instead. It’s a similar story on the North Shore.

University of Hawaii climate scientist Chip Fletcher, a lead author of the sea level rise report who’s been researching the issue for nearly three decades, said it’s incumbent upon lawmakers to have a greater sense of urgency in tackling the many problems related to sea level rise.

“It all boils down to we have to get out of the way,” Fletcher said. “And the longer you stay, the longer you are economically committed to this patch of ground which is in the end doomed.”

From year to year or even decade to decade, Fletcher said beaches change and sand moves. But he described that as noise superimposed on a trend.

“The beaches are going and going and going,” he said. “The trend is clearly shoreline recession.”

Senate Bill 1126, introduced by Rhoads and four colleagues, would require all vulnerable coastal property sales or transfers to include a sea level rise hazard exposure statement to ensure new owners understand the risks. The latest draft had the law taking effect Nov. 1.

It passed the Senate unanimously and crossed over to the House last week. The bill’s road to passage was rough though, with three committee hurdles to jump before a final vote by the 51-member chamber.

Two related measures, Senate bills 1340 and 1339, introduced by Sens. Gil Keith-Agaran and Jarrett Keohokalole, also crossed over to the House. House leaders referred them to four committees and while that can provide a more thorough vetting it’s often a kiss of death for bills.

The legislative session ends May 2, but the internal deadlines to keep the bills moving forward are coming up soon. It’s too late for many, absent some legislative maneuvering.

Thursday was the deadline for triple referral bills. Re-referrals, where committees are added or subtracted or redirected, are still possible though.

Senate Bill 1126 initially only had a double referral, which would have given the measure another week to have a hearing and pass out to the last committee, but then a third committee was added Tuesday. That moved the deadline up and gave the chairs of two committees just two days to hold a joint hearing, which didn’t happen.

Jodi Malinoski, policy advocate for the Sierra Club, said it’s still possible but unlikely a mandatory disclosure bill will pass this session as it’s just not a priority for House leaders.

“We’re not trying to push some grand obtuse idea. This is a priority for the Climate Commission,” she said. “But we’re a grassroots organization going up against a big association, and frankly big bags of money and political influence.”

The Hawaii Association of Realtors has donated more than $500,000 to at least 130 candidates over the past decade, campaign spending data show. The Sierra Club has given less than $500 to two candidates.

The House had moved forward with its version of a mandatory disclosure bill earlier this session but that one fizzled out in February.

Rep. Nicole Lowen, who co-introduced the measure and moved it through the Energy and Environmental Protection Committee she chairs, said she still supports mandatory disclosure but noted the testimony that contends disclosure may already be happening.

“Whether we need legislation or not is one question,” she said, adding that creating awareness about problems that might arise in the future is a first step toward implementing policies that encourage retreat from the shoreline in certain areas.

“There’s no escaping the fact that we’re going to have to deal with sea level rise in Hawaii,” she said.

Red Hill Resolution

Your voice is needed now to show strong support for the protection of Oʻahu’s drinking water from any further fuel contamination by the fragile, massive tanks at Red Hill. SCR 35—urging the Hawaiʻi Department of Health and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reject single walled tank upgrades at Red Hill—has a joint hearing in the Senate AEN/PSM Committee’s on Wednesday, March 20th @ 1:15 PM.

This resolution adds an additional layer of heavy public pressure for the State Health Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take a stronger stance for the health of Oʻahu’s water. The U.S. Navy is currently considering the lowest cost and least protective option to upgrade the Red Hill tanks. The Navy themselves has stated that “this alternative is nearly identical to the efforts conducted to inspect and repair the Red Hill tanks over the last 13 years.” This includes tank 5 that leaked 27,000 gallons of jet fuel in 2014.

Status quo is not acceptable—the tanks at Red Hill should be fitted with secondary containment or the tanks should be retired and the fuel moved to a location that does not risk Oʻahu’s main drinking water resource.

Last week, the Honolulu City Council adopted a similar Resolution. Let’s keep the momentum going! We are asking for your written testimony in support of SCR 35. Please use the form below or submit testimony via your account at the capitol.hawaii.gov website.