Letter: New Coalition Opposes those who “Blunt Progress.”

Dear Editor:

The purpose of the Big Island Community Coalition is to work towards reduced electrical energy costs on the Island of Hawaii – where we pay up to four times the national average for our power.  We are particularly sensitive to electric power rates as very high rates serve essentially as a regressive tax on our population while greatly reducing the probability of generating jobs in any sector that is dependent on electricity.

There are occasions when events are so alarming that groups such as ours feel compelled to move beyond our primary task.  This is such a time.

We have observed with increasing alarm as our community has taken steps that inexorably blunt the forward movement of our economy and even move us backwards.  These include:

1.     Anti-Geothermal activists encouraged County government to ban nighttime drilling, effectively stopping expansion of a major source of renewable and inexpensive electric power beyond already-existing permits.  This action was taken despite the existing plant meeting all applicable noise standards.  It appears that government officials took this action without first going to the site to verify that the noise was disruptive.  Once they did go to the site, some years later, government found that the noise was less than other environmental sounds (i.e., coqui frogs) and essentially no more than typical background noise.

2.     Anti-GMO activists lobbied to stop any new GMO products from being grown on the island – despite the fact that the vast majority of scientific, peer-reviewed studies found such products to be as safe, and in some cases more nutritious, as their non-GMO counterparts.  Legislation even prohibited GMO flowers – not consumed by anyone – from being grown on the island.  Thus family farmers lost the most effective new tools needed to reduce pesticide and herbicide usage while increasing productivity needed to keep their farms competitive.

3.     Now we have anti-Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) activists taking steps to stop construction of the most advanced telescope in the world.  If successful in stopping TMT, despite its sponsors following every legal requirement over a seven-year period, we will lose our world leading advantage in understanding the universe.

All of these actions share similar characteristics:

·      The arguments used to justify such actions are consistently anti-scientific.

·      “Anti” groups often obscure the lack of scientific evidence to support their position by using emotional pleas intended to incite fear.

·      The only “win” for many of these groups is to completely stop, thereby making them completely unwilling to consider any facts that refute their position or to make any reasonable compromise.

·      Long-term consequences are significant both culturally and economically.

Cultures that survive and thrive embrace new technologies carefully, thoughtfully and steadily.  Cultures and economies that thrive are innovative beccause they generate ideas and solutions, solve problems and take calculated but careful risks.

Cultures that fall backwards are those that fear advancement, fear change and cling to a mythicized view of yesteryear.  The net result is loss of their brightest and most hard working youth.  Those youth that remain find fewer and fewer jobs – those jobs having greatly diminished economic value and lower wages.  The downward spiral becomes inexorable.

As we look to tomorrow, we need to ask ourselves whether we wish to give our children the exciting and invigorating job market typified by Silicon Valley or a job market that is much closer to the poorer regions of third world countries.  It is up to us to point one way or another.  Driving TMT out will be one more major step to cultural and economic poverty.


Big Island Community Coalition

Richard Ha, President,

David DeLuz Jr., Rockne Freitas, Michelle Galimba, Wallace Ishibashi, Noe Kalipi, H.R “Monty” Richards, William Walter

Commentary: Sen. Lorraine Inouye on the Future of Renewable Energy

On the Island of Hawai‘i, where I live, I have witnessed the best of what renewable energy has to offer – geothermal, wind, water and sun. I was a member of the State Senate when the original statute on the renewable energy portfolio standards, Act 272, was approved in 2001. At that time, we were the only state to propose such a program. As the recently appointed Chair of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee, I look forward to learning what other technologies and resources are available to help wean ourselves off fossil fuels and to showcase to the world that the state of Hawai‘i is a leader when it comes to embracing the power of clean energy.
That is why I was encouraged when Gov. David Ige last week signed into law with great and well-earned fanfare House Bill 623 (Act 97), which sets new targets for Hawai‘i’s renewable energy portfolio standards. These standards were strengthened in 2004, 2006 and 2009. The new law now takes the standards to a more aggressive goal of 100 percent by the year 2045. Hawai‘i, once again, is blazing trails when it comes to setting targets that are good for the environment and good for the state overall.
I commend all State Legislators including the bill’s sponsor, Representative Chris Lee and Senator Mike Gabbard, for shepherding the legislation through the process. These are aggressive goals and the right thing to do.
But then I learned of a bit of irony.
Within a couple of days of the signing of the bill, the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission (PUC) took adverse action against eight solar farms – one was denied and seven were deferred. These projects are designed to add 240 megawatts of clean solar energy to the grid. But the PUC’s decisions put these projects at risk of going away. That’s 240 megawatts of solar energy — which could get us 6 percent closer to the goal — that could simply disappear.
Why? Did the PUC think these projects were not worthy?
Not at all.
What the PUC signaled in its orders was that Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) did not do its job in addressing the commission’s questions and concerns regarding costs and benefits to the state. In other words, HECO’s unresponsiveness to the PUC was holding us back from achieving our renewable energy goals.
I am glad that the PUC took the steps necessary to hold HECO accountable, and the good news is that the PUC’s efforts seem to be working. Subsequent filings by HECO provide the analysis necessary to show these 240 megawatts can help us achieve our renewable goals and help lower HECO’s electricity rates at the same time.
Things are heading in the right direction but we need to keep moving. Any further delay will place our renewable energy future – and projects like these – in jeopardy. A dire consequence of a delay: missing a critical deadline by the end of 2016 in order to qualify for federal tax credits. The tax credits are what allow the projects to offer unprecedentedly low prices to HECO’s customers. If the projects aren’t started in time to meet the deadline, they might never be started.
Not to mention, Hawai’i’s business reputation will be tarnished when investors wanting to help finance clean energy projects will simply go somewhere else. This puts a chilling effect on future investment. Companies wanting to come here could again say, “It’s too difficult to do business in Hawai‘i.”
Also at stake: hundreds of local construction jobs. This means less money in the pockets of carpenters, electricians, heavy equipment operators and other construction workers. This is the cash they use to pay mortgages and rents, food and other bills.
With the higher renewable portfolio standards, we need to send a strong message that we welcome more clean energy investment to the state — especially when the investment helps lower and stabilize our electricity rates. That’s why I’m asking the Commission to move quickly. Let us start by giving the green light to solar projects that will move Hawai‘i forward towards a more sustainable future.

State Senator Lorraine R. Inouye represents Senate District 4, which includes Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa and Kona. She is the chair of the Senate Transportation and Energy Committee.

Ige Signs Renewable Energy Bills

Governor David Ige has signed  four energy bills,  including one that could make Hawaii the first state in the Union to require utilities to generate 100 percent of their electricity sales from renewable energy resources. That bill, HB623, will phase in the use of renewable electricity sources until 100 percent of electrical utilities’ power output is generated from such sources by the end of 2045. Other bills would require the University of Hawaii to use renewable energy, would make it easier for consumers to purchase solar-generated power from sites away from their homes, and would create the post of state administrator to promote hydrogen-based energy technologies. The bills now become law.
“As the most oil dependent state in the nation, Hawai’i spends roughly $5 billion a year on foreign oil to meet its energy needs. Making the transition to renewable, indigenous resources for power generation will allow us to keep more of that money at home, thereby improving our economy, environment and energy security,” Ige said.
“Setting a 100 percent renewable portfolio standard will help drive investment in Hawai’i’s growing clean energy sector,” Luis Salaveria, Hawai’i’s director of the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, who noted “Our commitment to clean energy has already attracted entrepreneurs and businesses from around the world.”
“Renewable energy projects are already producing cheaper power than new fossil fuel projects in Hawai’i, and it’s only going to get cheaper as renewable technology advances, unlike fossil fuels which will only grow more expensive as they become more difficult to extract from a shrinking supply,” said Representative Chris Lee, Chair of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee. “The faster we move toward renewable energy, the faster we can stop exporting billions from our local economy to import expensive fossil fuels.”
Ige also signed bill SB1050, which will set up a framework to allow renters, condominium owners, and others to purchase electricity generated at an off-site energy facility, such as a large-scale solar farm. The new law will also provide relief to homeowners and businesses located on highly saturated circuits that cannot accommodate additional photovoltaic installations.
“As of March 2015, there are about 56,000 PV/Solar systems on rooftops. These folks are saving tremendously on their electricity bills. That’s great, but what about the 44 percent of Hawai’i residents who don’t own their homes? And those without roof space? SB1050 allows people to form a hui, find a piece of land, and purchase or lease however many PV panels they want and then get a credit on their electricity bill for the energy they produce. We spend $3-5 billion annually buying fossil fuels; this is an awesome concept that will keep some of the money here to help our economy,” commented Senator Mike Gabbard, who chaired the Senate Committee on Transportation and Energy when bill SB1050 was created.

Classic Cars to Invade Hawaii

Expect to see lots vintagecars rolling along Big Island highways from June 25 to July 5.  Members of the Hawai`i Classic Cruisers (HCC) organization will be  bringing their prides and joys  from Michigan, Oregon, Texas, California, Nevada and around the globe, as well as from O’ahu and Maui,  to this island for their triennial “Cruise Paradise” happening.

Participants pay $20 to enter one vehicle and $10 for each vehicle thereafter so that their vehicle entry into all events related to the cuise; they pay their own shipping to get their cars here.  But for spectators, “This is a free, fun, family-oriented 10-day event,” notes the press release for the cruise. “During Cruise Paradise 2012, over 400 classic vehicles geared up for car shows on the Big Island that attracted over 10,000 spectators in Hilo, Kona and Waikoloa.  On July 4, hundreds of cars participating in the cruise will be on display at Hilo’s Bayfront.

The event will contribute to the economy, if not to local air quality;  sponsors anticipate that the cruisers will “burn over 7,500 gallons of fuel, travel over a total of 90,000 miles and spend $23,000 in fuel costs alone. Some vehicles anticipate traveling approximately 600 miles over the 10 days getting about 10-12 miles per gallon of fuel. Car enthusiasts will travel across the island, lodge at various hotels and condominiums, eat at local eateries and shop in our malls, shops and supermarkets.”
For more information, go to  www.hawaiiclassiccruisers.com

DLNR Confirmation Hearings, Round 2….

Governor Ige’s nomination of Carleton Ching to run the Department of Land and Natural Resources went down in flames a few days ago, with Ige withdrawing Ching’s name after a flood of negative testimony and a straw vote that demonstrated that Ching couldn’t be confirmed by the full Senate. Now it’s the turn of Ige’s pick for Deputy to the Chairperson of DLNR, Kekoa Kaluhiwa, who is also controversial.

At 2:45 p.m. tomorrow, Kaluhiwa’s nomination goes before the Senate Committee on Water and Land, whose negative recommendation of Ching was a major nail in Ching’s coffin. But  Kaluhiwa’s resume raises some of the same alarm bells that went off for conservationists re Ching’s nomination.  Like Ching, Kaluhiwa has been a lobbyist–in Kaluhiwa’s case, for Horizon Lines, where, among other duties, he assisted company executives in strategizing campaign contributions and necessary reporting to the Campaign Spending Commission” and “assisted in monitoring bills relating to the maritime industry.  He also served as a registered lobbyist for Young Brothers during the 2014 legislative session, when “primary bills of interest related to invasive species protection and possible restructuring of the Public Utilities Commission.”  NextEra Energy also employed him for public relations work related to the PUC:he was “retained to assist with community relations efforts specific to the development of an electric transmission cable between Oahu and Maui.  Since the PUC did not allow that projec tmove forward, he says, he did not actually “conduct any community outreach,” although he did attend some public meetings related to the project.  He claim he did not “participate in or have knowledge of” any of NextEra’s other Hawaii-related projects, including its proposed purchase of HECO and HELCO.

But Kaluhiwa says his undergraduate course work continued courses not only in  “political science, management theory” and “economics,” but also in “climate change, land tenure and wildlife management.” He also points to his 11 years of service with U. S. Senator Daniel Akaka and his Hawaiia heritage as assets he could use at the DLNR.  As a graduate intern with the Land Assets Division of Kamehameha Schools, he worked on hunting issues an feral ungulate control, two areas with which the DLNR is also heavily involved.  To monitor and or testify on Kaluhiwa’s hearing, click here.

Also up for consideration before the Water and Land Committee tomorrow are three less controversial appointments: Ige’s naming of Keith Downing, Ulalia Woodside and  Christopher Yuen to the Board of Land and Natural Resources.  To monitor and/or testify on those nominations, click on the links attached to their names.


Phone No., Password, Documents Released for Tomorrow’s DU Meeting

Those wishing to participate via free teleconference phone at the Army/Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting about depleted uranium at Pohakuloa and Schofield Barracks should call 888-957-9862 and give the following password:  4982130.  The call is toll free.

Senior Project Manager Amy Snyder of the NRC has provided the following additional information about documents that the Army has provided the NRC and where to find them online:

“Documents that will be discussed can be reviewed at the links below beginning Friday, March 20:

View ADAMS P8 Properties ML15078A094

Open ADAMS P8 Package (Draft Documents from Army Regarding March 24, 2015 Meeting on Depleted Uranium from the Davy Crockett Weapon System)

“Draft Documents from Army Regarding March 24, 2015 Meeting on Depleted Uranium from the Davy Crockett Weapon System:
ML15078A092 DRAFT National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document
ML15078A099 DRAFT Decommissioning Funding Plan
ML15078A114 DRAFT Programmatic Approach for Preparation of Site-Specific Environmental Radiation Monitoring Plans
ML15078A115 DRAFT Proposed Amendments to Conditions of NRC SML # SUC-1593
ML15078A118 DRAFT “Radiation Safety Plan for IMCOM Ranges Affected by M101 Davy Crockett Spotting Round Depleted Uranium.”

“These documents are located in package No. ML15078A094…. The package No. is not declared- so please use the individual ML numbers provided above. They are now publicly available. The Army said that they will have one more draft document by Monday, March 23. The NRC staff may not have enough time to review this draft so the NRC staff may not be able to have a detailed discussion on documents received late- in which case we may be in the listening mode.”

Open Letter to Gov. Ige: Municipalize HECO

Dear Governor Ige:

The Case For (Non-Profit) Municipal Power (MP) In Hawai’i. The impending sale of Hawaiian Electric (HE) to NextEra Energy must not be allowed. The time has come for a different energy model in Hawai’i. Corporate HE (not individual workers) is unresponsive, or at best sluggish, to the economic and environmental needs of the people of Hawai’i, and for good reason, HE is not egalitarian, it’s a privately owned power monopoly motivated by profit. HE charges the highest electric rates in the United States. These high rates, the steady drop in renewable energy costs, and the effects of carbon fuel pollution on the planet, have permanently altered the energy landscape, and have made energy sources like roof-top solar a great economic and ethical choice for residential energy consumers. Unfortunately, HE discourages roof-top solar because it’s not profitable for them . Allowing the change of ownership, of a for-profit power monopoly, from HE to out-of-state NextEra, delivers the company to individuals having no endemic connection to Hawai’i. It allows NextEra to control the energy fates of all Hawaiians, the sun, wind, tides, and Pele herself, all for the profit of NextEra. These energy resources are a public trust, belonging to the current and future generations of Hawai’i, not to any private entity. Your obligation as Governor is to uphold this public trust, and I therefore petition you to municipalize HE instead of allowing its sale to NextEra Energy.

Some people will be shocked by the proposition of MP, claiming it’s unworkable or untried. Others will call it Socialism, wagging their tongues about the free market, the word Capitalism spilling reverently from their lips, and they will tell you that competition is the best solution. And some will caution that MP is just “big government” intruding into our lives. Well… to those who are shocked, or wagging, or afraid of government, the truth is simply eye-opening. MP is an old idea, beginning in America as early as 1917, and widely accepted all across this country. MP got its start because, “Many [Americans in the early 1900’s] believed privately owned power companies were charging too much for power, did not employ fair operating practices, and were subject to abuse by their owners (utility holding companies), at the expense of consumers.” Indeed, Americas exploitation of power resources is an older story than MP. A recent example of this exploitation happened in 2000, in the Southern California energy market, which was manipulated by energy traders, who under the guise of the “free market” caused an 800% jump in energy costs, all the while promising that competition would bring the price down. The only SoCal energy provider that did not raise its rates was the LA Municipal Power Authority. The truth is, in the United States, MP is a well tested and continuing success, with “251 publicly owned electric & gas utilities,” and “44 State and Federal” utilities . The entire RED state of Nebraska is a municipal power State . And to erase any doubt, in the State of Hawaii, the “Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC)” has the following information on their web site :

“(KIUC) is a not-for-profit generation, transmission and distribution cooperative owned and controlled by the members it serves. Headquartered in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii, the cooperative currently serves more than 32,000 electric accounts throughout Kauai. Committed to reinventing how Kauai is powered, KIUC is
aggressively pursuing diversification of its energy portfolio to include a growing percentage of hydropower, photovoltaic, bio-fuel, and biomass.”

“Goals in the plan include:

• Reducing the average residential energy bill by at least 10 percent over the next 10 years even as petroleum fuel prices are forecast to rise 35 percent. The amount of the reduction could be greater or less depending on the actual price of oil and assumes that KIUC completes its switch to at least 50 percent renewable power generation.
• Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from KIUC operations to 1990 levels by 2023. That would eliminate about 52,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
• Holding operations budgets at or below the inflation rate, something KIUC has done since 2010, while maintaining system reliability.”

Municipalization is the legal process whereby the State, County, or City forms its own non-profit utility company. In Hawai’i, this could be done Island by Island, County by County, or State wide. Municipal conversions have been successfully accomplished all around the country, and are the less expensive alternative to for-profit monopoly power. Recently, the City of Boulder Colorado took its for-profit power company municipal, a movement that started with people who wanted to make a positive change in Boulder.

There is a long list of good reasons to implement Municipal Power in Hawai’i:

1. Moral Obligation – Renewable energy resources (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal) are a public trust, belonging to the current and future generations of Hawai’i and not to any private entity. The sun, wind, tides, and geothermal energy are everyones. To be a free people, we must collectively own these resources.
2. Lower Electric Rates – Based upon the existing examples of MP Cities and States, rates will decrease and service will increase. This will especially help Hawai’i Island where rates are $0.45/KWhr, the most expensive in the nation by 3 to 5 times.
3. No Longer Under The Thumb Of A For-Profit Monopoly – NextEra Energy is an out-of-state for-profit company that will hold a monopoly on electric power in most of Hawai’i. They will determine the fate of renewable energy in Hawai’i for the foreseeable future. Promises of lower rates, and a move toward solar, which NextEra has tended to develop in large industrial farms (more profitable for them) rather than roof-top installations, are hollow promises that disappear the minute oil prices increase or their profits are in jeopardy.
4. Accountability & Transparency – A for profit company has no obligation or accountability to the State, or the people of the State, and is not transparent in its spending practice or resource allocation. When creating the MP authority the State can mandate “sunshine” laws.
5. Potential Of Renewable Power In Hawai’i – Of all the US States, the Hawaiian Islands and particularly Hawai’i County have the most potential for renewables. Hawai’i State has limitless quantities of sun, wind, tidal, and on Hawai’i Island, geothermal.
6. The Climate Perspective – To moderate the effects of global warming, renewables are the answer. In a warming world the continued reliance on extractive carbon based energy, or even biofuels is foolish.
7. Future Energy Costs – Oil and natural gas costs only promise to increase. Renewable energy is free. After the initial investment in panels, inverters, windmills, turbines, and geothermal wells, the cost is only in maintenance (which has identical cost counterparts in traditional power plants), but the energy s free. I repeat, no fuel cost, free!
8. Fuel Transportation Costs – There are no transportation costs for renewable energy. Oil and gas have to be brought to Hawai’i, and as the transportation cost of fuel increases so will the cost of the fuel, and so will the cost of electricity.
9. Sustainability and Continuity of the Energy Supply – If there’s catastrophe, a natural disaster, a war, a fuel oil fire, a long freight strike, if power plants are bombed or exploded by terrorists, this will disrupt the carbon energy “pipeline” into Hawai’i. Solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal power are endemic to Hawai’i.
10. Distributed Power Is More Reliable – Especially in the case of roof-top solar, the energy source is distributed, not a point source like a power plant. Distributed sources tend to be more robust than point sources because it’s impossible for any disaster to shut down all roof-top solar panels.
11. Save Existing Electric Utility Jobs.
12. Create New Jobs – From new services that a MP utility can provide.
13. Use Low Cost Green Energy to Attract Industry to Hawai’i – Following the model of Iceland (a country that generates 100% of its energy from green sources (geothermal and hydroelectric), energy intensive clean industries could be attracted to Hawai’i by our low cost green energy. This will generate long term, sustainable, higher paying jobs, and end Hawaii’s dependence on boom or bust low paying tourism sector jobs, the military, and real-estate and building trade jobs, which are dependent on the economy, states of war, and the development of the precious little land that is Hawai’i.
14. Energy Efficiency – Use the MP authority to advertise energy efficiency, and establish a grant program for home owners to receive money to insulate their homes (lower AC cost), convert to solar hot water, electric cars, etc. The Counties could use grant money to purchase LED street lamps, or convert to electric powered or solar fueled (hydrogen) vehicles (which will again lower our dependence on imported oil).
15. Power the HART Train System – Instead of building another oil fired power plant to supply power to the new train system, use the MP authority to encourage roof-top solar to such a degree that one of the existing oil fired power plants is freed-up to supply power to HART. By utilizing rooftop solar, the foot print of the new power plant will be ZERO, no land, no ugly plant, no noise, no fuel delivery system, no atmospheric or oil spill pollution.
16. Include the Geothermal Plant on Big Island in the MP Authority – MP on the Big Island can be used to stop the excesses of Puna Geothermal (PG), which continually vents H2S from its well heads, doesn’t effectively monitor the H2S releases, and blights the land where it sets up or abandons wells. A fund could be set up in the MP system to reclaim the blighted lands, monitor the H2S, end noisy night-time well drilling, and buy out property owners that are too close to wells, giving these land owners the opportunity to move to a home farther from the geothermal wells. Geothermal is a vast resource that should belong to the Hawaiian people and not Ormat.
17. Create Municipal Broadband – By using the power poles to run fiber optic cable, or using the power wires for broadband-over-power-lines, bring high speed Internet to Hawai’i, at speeds comparable to the rest of the developed world but rarely found in the USA. This would encourage information technology (IT) companies to move to Hawai’i (as it has in Chattanooga, TN, and Santa Monica, CA), and change Hawai’i from an IT back-water into the high tech hub of the Pacific. Current average Internet speeds in the USA are 10 Mb/S, at costs from $19.00 to $40.00 per month. The Internet of much of the rest of the developed world runs at speeds of 0.5 Gb/s, at costs of $5.00 per month, with faster speeds up to 1 Gb/S for $35.00 or less per month (depending upon the country).

Renewables are the energy of today, not the energy of the future, because without green energy humanity may not have a future. The United States lags behind the rest of the developed world in implementing renewable (non-carbon, non-nuclear) energy. As Americans struggle to change energy sources, we face propaganda from the extractive carbon energy companies, who promise energy independence, who say there is no climate change due to carbon dioxide, who not admitting carbon is an environmental problem promise “clean carbon technologies,” who have historically blighted the land, polluted the air, rivers, lakes and oceans, and who understandably want to profit from every single drop of oil. We also have to face our own familiarity and acustomness to the carbon economy, and have to confront the problem humanity has with making large long-sighted systemic changes. Quoting Tyson Slokum , “We can do a lot more for cheaper if we focus on how to get off of oil and become more energy efficient. And what we need to be doing is looking at ways to more easily and affordably get alternative[s] like electric vehicles into the market, to invest in ways to make our buildings more energy efficient, [and] to focus on getting 20 million roof top solar panels installed in the next couple of years. These are all the kinds of initiatives that are actually going to lead to affordable energy and energy independence. But of course, the big money in terms of electoral politics is not in roof-top solar, it’s in maintaining the monopoly status of oil industries control over our economy”

In the world outside the United States there are many countries who are successfully moving off carbon and nuclear energy. The country Denmark just announced its pledged to be a totally renewable society by 2050. Germany, the most successful economy in the world, is already 25% renewable energy. Iceland is a totally renewable energy country, deriving power from approximately 80% geothermal, and 20% hydroelectric power from glacier melt.

None of what I’ve proposed is new. Every idea has been gleaned from successes in the USA and the world. As a new governor, not elected by a majority of the electorate, at a time when the population does not trust and is disconnected from government, a government that most assiduously serves the rich and exiguously serves the poor, you need a people’s issue. If you said to your fellow Hawaiians, we have tried a for-profit power monopoly and it did not work, so now we are creating a non-profit Municipal Power Authority to substantially lower your energy bills and enrich the State, well… that’s big Aloha. To do this you must eliminate the profiteers, uphold the “public trust,” and for the “collective good,” return the sun, wind, tides, and Pele herself to the people of Hawai’i.

I look forward to your response, and your action on Municipal Power.

Best Regards,
Larry Pollack
Hilo, Hawai’i

Scrapped Incinerator, Now What?

(From our print edition)

,by Alan McNarie

Late last month, Mayor Billy Kenoi’s administration withdrew its Request for Proposals for a garbage-to-energy plant. Department of Environmental Management Director Bobby Jean Leithead-Todd told the Chronicle that Kenoi didn’t intend to revisit his decision during his term in office. But the question remains: what to do with all that garbage?
In killing the incinerator, the administration cited the decreasing cost of oil, which has dropped from over $100 per barrel to less than $50 in recent months. It also noted the uncertainty about the future of the Hawaii Electric Light Company, which may be bought out by a Florida corporation named NextEra Energy. The administration did not cite the heavy grassroots opposition that had gathered against the proposal, spawning Web sites, Facebook pages and at least two online petitions that had gathered over 2,000 signatures. Opponents criticized the project’s estimated $100 million price tag and its proposed location on Hawaiian Homelands in Keaukaha. They also argued that the county simply didn’t produce enough garbage for the plant to operate economically.
“Since the County does not produce enough garbage to meet its quota, it will be required to pay off the incinerator company for the garbage it cannot produce—to [the] tune of millions of dollars per year!” contended one petition, in part.
According to Councilmember Margaret Wille, that drain could have been compounded by the county’s contract with Waste Management, Inc., which requires the county to pay for a minimum tonnage of garbage tipped per day at West Hawaii’s Pu`uanahulu Landfill, whether it generates that much trash or not. The incinerator, Wille told the Chronicle, would have made “two things that we’re on the hook for forever.”
The incinerator announcement came in the wake of headlines, only days before, that the county had cancelled $100,000 contract with the nonprofit Recycle Hawaii to conduct recycling education. County officials denied allegations that the cancellation was a retaliation against incinerator opponents; the administration claimed it simply had other uses for the money. Leithead-Todd told the Chronicle that her department had experienced some “expenditures that were not in our budget,” for instance, including the need to haul green waste from certain areas of the island to Hilo in order to avoid contaminating coffee-growing regions with an invasive beetle, and the need to evacuate, then re-occupy, Pahoa’s transfer station/recycling center because of nearby lava. While the county hoped to recoup some of its volcano-related expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said, “I can’t count on getting that money from FEMA this year.”
Buklarewicz said the county had renewed Recycle Hawaii’s contract to run the County’s recycling centers for another year.
With the incinerator dead and the county’s Hilo landfill years overdue to close—although the County also hopes the federal Environmental Protection Agency will grant permission to extend the landfill’s life yet again by steepening the slopes allowed for the landfill’s sides—it still appears that some sort of recycling/waste diversion program will be vital to the county’s future. Both Buklarewicz and Wille are pushing for an educational component in that program. Buklarewicz hopes to renegotiate a contract, possibly with an emphasis on zero-waste school programs similar to one already underway at Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy in Waimea, where garbage from the cafeteria, for example, is turned into compost for gardening. Wille has written a resolution urging the Mayor to issue a new request for proposals for one or more recycling education contracts. As of the deadline for this article, that resolution was scheduled to receive its first hearing on February 17.
“In my opinion, the zero waste programs that fail are the ones that don’t have a strong education component,” Wille believes.
She’s also introducing a “whole package” of waste reduction bills at the Council on March 3. Within reasonable transition periods, she hopes to get all plastic foam and green waste diverted from the landfill to recycled uses. Other bills would require contractors to provide recycling services and give the Director of Environmental Management more leeway to divert waste from the Hilo Landfill to the Kona side—something now allowed only in emergencies, but which Wille believes should be possible in other circumstances, such as to avoid penalty fees.
“I don’t want to be paying penalties where if we brought another seven tons over there, there wouldn’t be penalties,” she contends.
Leithead-Todd is also working on new diversion measures, including a “multi-year contract to do composting,” which may include using a portable tub grinder that could be moved around to various locations to grind up the mulch and compost in place, instead of trucking it to a composting center. The county will also be establishing another geen waste mulching facility in May at the Waimea Transfer station. It will pay for these new green waste services, in part, with a new $21.25 per ton tipping fee that will begin on March 1 for green waste from commercial operators at the Hilo and Pu‘uanahulu landfills which will be the only places that accept commercial loads of greenwaste, though residents can continue to drop off non-commercial greenwaste for free at Hilo, Pu‘uanahulu, Kealakehe, Ke’ei, Puak?, P?hoa and Kea‘au. The county currently pays more than $1.6 million a year to recycle green waste—organic matter such as cut grass and tree branches—into mulch.
Another huge component of the county’s waste stream is consumer packaging: all those brightly colored, advertising-covered boxes, cartons, cans, bottles, bags and wrappers that fill retail shelves and cross fast-food counters.
Bularewicz notes that over the years, county diversion programs have been pulling a greater and greater variety of materials from that waste stream. But he also acknowledges that most of that material now goes to China for reprocessing—burning fuel and aborting potential U.S. jobs. Wille talks about providing “incentives” and “disincentives” such as tax breaks and fees to make companies take responsibility for the costs of their packaging. Some big companies, such as Wal-Mart, are already taking back their cardboard shipping boxes—but not consumer packaging. Others, such as McDonalds, are switching from plastic packaging to biodegradable paper—McDonalds has even started using 100 percent recycled paper napkins. But many local drive-ins are still passing out plastic foam. Hawai’i’s HI-5 program and bag ban have made significant inroads in the waste stream—but persuading mainstream companies to convert to bulk bins, such as local natural food stores use, and reusable containers like the glass bottles that local soda companies once distributed seems a more distant goal.
But perhaps a goal worth pursuing. Getting garbage out of the waste stream could be easier if less garbage was coming in.

2,900 Residents Still Without Power.

As of  4 p.m. today, approximately 2,900 island residents, mostly  Puna and Ka’u,  remained without power, according to HELCO–and some can expect to remain without electricity for days.

The utility said it had restored power to 1,100 customers from North Kohala to Lower Puna since yesterday’s high winds, but some residents remained without power in in portions of Leilani Estates, Nanawale, Lanipuna, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Orchidland, Ainaloa, Hawaiian Beaches, Nanawale, Tangerine Acres, Leilani Estates, Fern Forest, Fern Acres, Hawaiian Acres, Eden Roc, Wood Valley, South Point, and Ahualoa.

“Due to extensive damage, customers in Hawaiian Beaches, Hawaiian Shores, Nanawale, Leilani Estates, and Lanipuna are advised to prepare for the possibility of extended outages through this week,” stated a message on the company’s Web site this evening.

HELCO: Lower Puna Subdivisions Could be Without Power for Days

High winds have caused numerous power outages today–and as of 5:30, about 5,000 were still without Power, according to the HELCO Web site.

The  utility reported that “an estimated 5,000 customers are without power in portions of Hawaiian Paradise Park, Orchidland, Ainaloa, Hawaiian Beaches, Hawaiian Shores, Kapoho, Nanawale, Leilani Estates, Fern Forest, Fern Acres, Hawaiian Acres, Eden Roc, Aloha Estates, Volcano Village, Hawi, Wood Valley, Hilo, and Waimea.” It advised customers in the Lower Puna subdivisions of Hawaiian Beaches, Hawaiian Shores, Kapoho, Nanawale, and Leilani Estates  to “prepare for extended outages which could last into next week and in some areas, much longer.”

“In some areas, strong winds toppled trees and caused extensive damage to power lines and utility poles,” said the company’s press release. “Ongoing windy conditions make it unsafe for tree trimmers to clear roadways and for crews to conduct assessments and make repairs.”

The company said custome’s trying to report outages “may experience a longer wait time before speaking with a representative.” Some customers who dialed the company’s infamous “number of the beast”–it’s 969-6666 customer service line– were met with busy signals several times before they got through to the company’s call waiting message.  One Volcano customer who did finally connect with a service representative said he was told that the company’s line crews were “swamped.”

More Bills to Watch: SanBueneventura Gets Busy

HB1314 Emergency Home Relocation Special Fund; Appropriation.  Establishes the emergency home relocation special fund to assist persons dispossessed of their homes as a result of a natural disaster. Appropriates funds.

HB1369 CIP; County of Hawaii; Road Repair and Maintenance; GO Bonds; Appropriation.  Authorizes general obligation bonds and appropriates funds to the county of Hawaii for the repair and maintenance of feeder roads and alternate routes for highway 130 and any portion of highway 130 under the jurisdiction of the county.

  HB737 Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund; Hawaii Property Insurance Association.  Authorizes the Hawaii property insurance association to spend funds in the Hawaii hurricane relief fund to pay for extraordinary losses caused by the flow of lava or other volcanic activity.

HB1320 Emergency Management; Tree Maintenance.  Authorizes entry into private property to mitigate hazards posed by trees to utility and communications lines and roadways. Assesses a fine of $150 per day against a landowner whose property must be entered for this purpose.

  HB383 Emergency Medical Services; Advanced Life Support Ambulance.  Makes an appropriation for one advanced life support ambulance to be based in Puna on the island of Hawaii and to be used from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and to include a vehicle, equipment, and personnel costs.

 HB377 Mobile Health Unit; Appropriation.  Appropriates a grant to the Bay Clinic, Inc., for a mobile health unit to service the Puna district due to the threat of inaccessibility from the lava flow.

HB374 Transportation; Harbors; Kapoho Bay; Feasibility Study.  Requires DOT to contract for a study on the feasibility of establishing a harbor or port at Kapoho bay.

  HB370 HPIA; Policy Renewals; Continued Coverage.  Requires member insurers of HPIA to renew policies that were in effect as of 1/1/2014. Provides for continued coverage under an existing HPIA policy upon a transfer in ownership of the property.

  HB380 HPIA; Mandatory Issuance of Policies; Removal of Moratorium.  Requires member insurers of HPIA to offer a minimum number of policies proportionate to their market share on properties that are situated in the areas designated for coverage by the insurance commissioner and that have been previously and continuously insured since 06/01/2014. Prohibits HPIA from issuing or continuing a moratorium on issuing policies on those same properties.

 HR6 Cellular; Broadband; Rural Communities.  Requests reports regarding state agency action to ensure access by rural communities to cellular and broadband services.

  HB376 Chief Election Officer; Elections Commission; Evaluation; Term Length.  Changes the term of the chief election officer to 2 years. Requires the elections commission to conduct a performance evaluation of the chief election officer within 2 months of certifying election results, and hold a public hearing relating to the performance evaluation.

HB378 After School Bus Program; Island of Hawaii; Appropriation.  Restores funding for the after school bus program on the island of Hawaii that was excluded from the 2015-2017 executive biennium budget. Appropriates moneys.

  HB1155 Albizia Trees; Conservation and Resources Enforcement Special Fund; Appropriation.  Makes an appropriation from the conservation and resources enforcement special fund to DLNR for the removal of albizia trees on public and private land.

 HB88 County Fuel Tax; Hawaii County.  Permit’s Hawaii County to expend its share of fuel tax revenues for maintenance of private subdivision roads. Specifies that public entities are not required to install infrastructure on these roads upon a private sale.

HB371 Foreclosures; Asset.  Prohibits a mortgage creditor from executing on any asset of the debtor beyond the asset that is secured by the mortgage.

 HB372 Marijuana; Civil Penalties for Possession of One Ounce or Less.  Establishes a civil violation for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana that is subject to fines.

 HB373 Transient Accommodations Tax.  Amends amount of transient accommodations tax revenues allocated to the counties from a specified sum to an unspecified percentage of the revenues collected.

 HB375 Attachment or Execution of Property; Exemptions.  Amends the thresholds for the exemption of real property from attachment or execution to be based upon the most recent real property tax assessment, regardless of value and for all types of property owners. Clarifies that attachment or execution does not apply to a debtor who is not delinquent in payment of income taxes, real property taxes, or mortgages. Bases the value threshold of certain personal property exempted from attachment and execution on the fair market value as adjusted by the consumer price index. Exempts child support moneys and tax refunds from the federal earned income tax credit and federal or state child support tax credit from attachment and execution.

 HB381 Homeowners’ Associations; Planned Community Associations.  Expands the law on planned community associations to apply to homeowners’ associations so that all disputes are mediated instead of going to court.

  HB382 Employees’ Retirement System; Division of Pension.  Requires the Employees’ Retirement System to divide pensions between a retired employee and non-employee former spouse or civil union partner, upon application and pursuant to a qualified domestic relations order. This has the effect of ensuring that employees for the full pension benefits and in the event of domestic violence spouse, victim need not ask for their share of pension.

HB833 Transient Accommodations Tax; Counties; Revenues.  Makes permanent the current amount of transient accommodations tax revenues allocated for distribution to the counties. This allows the county of Hawaii to file and the State cannot lessen the county’s share of the annual hotel room tax

HB1204 Procurement; Sustainable Procurements Manager; Appropriation.  Appropriates funds for a new position within the state procurement office tasked with facilitating the development and implementation of procurement processes for public agencies and private organizations for the purpose of food sustainability in Hawaii.

 HB1205 Hawaii-grown Food Procurement Task Force; Procurement; Appropriation.  Establishes and appropriates funds for the Hawaii-grown food procurement task force for the purpose of creating recommendations for increasing procurement of food grown in Hawaii by State departments and agencies.

HB1206 University of Hawaii Sustainability Office; Appropriation.  Establishes the University of Hawaii sustainability office.  Appropriates funds.

The public can participate in legislative discussions and follow the progress of the bills by logging onto the Capitol website at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

More Bills to Watch: Coffee Borers, Solar power, Lava Insurance, Videoconferencing, Pesticides, “Right to Farm”

Rep. Nicole Lowen (D-Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokahau(  has introduced the following:

HB 482 (SB598): Related to Agriculture: would provide state subsidies for coffee farmers attempting to control invasive coffee borers with pesticides.

HB484    Related to Energy. Creates a “community-based energy tariff” system to facilitate solar

HB786 Relating to Videoconferencing:  Requires both chambers of the legislature to implement rules to permit residents to present testimony through audiovisual technology.

Some other measures people may be interested in:

HB849  Related to Agriculture. Establishes disclosure requirements for outdoor applications of pesticides in proximity to schools, childcare facilities, and certain commercial agricultural entities. Establishes reasonable pesticide buffer zones for sensitive areas. Establishes penalties.  Prohibits counties from passing “laws, ordinances, or resolutions to limit the rights of farmers and ranchers to engage in agricultural practices.”  Among the bill’s introducers: Clift Tsuji  (Keaukaha, Hilo, Panaewa, Waiakea) Richard Onishi (D-Hilo, Kea’au, Kurtistown, Volcano), Mark Nakashima  (D: Hamakua, North Hilo, South Hilo) and Cindy Evans (D: North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala) NOTE: Hearing coming up before the House Agriculture Committee tomorrow, Thursday Feb. 5

HB1514  Related to Environmental Protection. Establishes disclosure requirements for outdoor applications of pesticides in proximity to schools, childcare facilities, and certain commercial agricultural entities. Establishes reasonable pesticide buffer zones for sensitive areas. Establishes penalties. NOTE: Hearing coming up before the House Energy and Environmental Protection  Committee this Thursday Feb. 5 Committee tomorrow, Thursday, Feb. 5

HB380:  Related to the Hawaii Property Insurance Association. Breaks the HPIA’s moratorium on re-insuring properties in the lava zone.  Sponsors include the entire Big Island House delegation. NOTE: scheduled for hearing at House Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee TODAY AT 2:45 p.m.

Go to the attached links to track the bills and/or submit testimony.