Application Deadline to Serve on State Ethics and Campaign Spending Commissions Extended

The Judicial Council is extending the deadline in its search to find qualified applicants to fill an upcoming vacancy on the Hawaii State Ethics Commission created by a term expiring on June 30, 2015. The council is also extending its deadline in its search to fill two upcoming vacancies on the Campaign Spending Commissions. The new application deadline is March 31, 2015.

JudiciaryMembers of both commissions serve on a voluntary basis. Travel expenses incurred by neighbor island commissioners to attend meetings on Oahu will be reimbursed.

Applicants must be U. S. citizens, residents of the State of Hawaii, and may not hold any other public office.

The Ethics Commission addresses ethical issues involving legislators, registered lobbyists, and state employees (with the exception of judges, who are governed by the Commission on Judicial Conduct). The five commission members are responsible for investigating complaints, providing advisory opinions, and enforcing decisions issued by the Commission. The Hawaii State Constitution prohibits members of the Ethics Commission “from taking an active part in political management or political campaigns.”

The primary duty of the five members of the Campaign Spending Commission is to supervise campaign contributions and expenditures. Commissioners may not participate in political campaigns or contribute to candidates or political committees.

The Governor will select the commissioners from a list of nominees submitted by the Judicial Council.

Interested persons should submit an application along with a resume and three letters of recommendation (attesting to the applicant’s character and integrity) postmarked by March 31, 2015. to: Judicial Council, Hawaii Supreme Court, 417 S. King Street, Second Floor, Honolulu, Hawaii 96813-2902.

Applications are available on the Hawaii State Judiciary website or by calling the Judicial Council at 539-4702.

Hawaii Residents Urged to Chase Water Waste this Week

The average American family could be wasting more than 10,000 gallons of water each year due to easy-to-fix household leaks, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) WaterSense program. That amount of water could increase a water bill by as much as 10 percent while wasting precious resources.

That’s why EPA is encouraging consumers to participate in WaterSense’s seventh annual Fix a Leak Week, March 16 through 22, 2015, by finding and fixing leaks around the home.

If every household in Hawaii lost as much as 10,000 gallons of water per year to leaks, residents would be, cumulatively, spending more than $48 million dollars on water lost to easily detectible and fixable leaks. According to the U.S. drought monitor’s March 3rd report, over 50% of the state is experiencing drought conditions.

Drought Monitor March
“Finding ways to conserve our precious water is everyone’s responsibility,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Household leaks in Hawaii may account for 5.26 billion gallons of water wasted each year.”

By following three simple steps—check, twist, and replace—consumers can save water and make their homes more efficient.

Here’s how to get started finding and fixing leaks:

Check: Look at your water meter, usually located outside your house, before and after a two-hour period of no water use. If the number has changed, there is likely a leak, which could be as simple to fix as replacing a worn rubber flapper in the toilet tank.

Twist: Fix dripping pipes, fixtures, or hoses by using a wrench to twist and tighten the connections. If needed, pipe tape can help seal shower fixtures or hose connections. Remind everyone in the house to turn faucets and showers off tightly, and check washers and valves for persistent drips.

Replace: For old or inefficient fixtures that are not easily repaired, look for WaterSense labeled models to replace them. These water- and money-saving high-performing products are independently certified to use at least 20 percent less water and perform well. You can find the label on the product packaging or the website of your favorite plumbing brand and they are available in a variety of styles and prices at home improvement stores.

To help consumers find and fix leaks, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply is hosting a Fix A Leak Week social media campaign that will encourage residents to check for leaks at home and work and to select high-efficiency fixtures wherever possible. Please also check with your local water supplier for more tips.

Visit www.epa.gov/watersense/fixaleak to learn more about finding and fixing leaks. The WaterSense Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EPAWatersense also has a map to help you find Fix a Leak Week events in your

 

Hawaii County Ordered to Suspend Drug Tests for Employees

Constitution protects government employees from such invasive medical examinations

The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i and the law firm of Peiffer Rosca Wolf Abdullah Kane & Carr sued Hawai’i County in federal court on Monday, March 9 on behalf of Rebekah Taylor-Failor, a Kailua-Kona woman who is about to begin working for the County.

After giving her a conditional job offer, the County required her, as it requires all its prospective employees, to submit to a urinalysis and an invasive medical examination.
Piss TestShe asked the Court to allow her to start working (as a Legal Clerk II – a typical desk job) without submitting to a urinalysis; on Friday, March 13, the Court granted that request, ruling that “the urinalysis would violate Taylor-Failor’s Fourth Amendment rights[.]”

Until now, the County of Hawai’i required its prospective employees to submit a urine sample, which the County would subject to analysis that could reveal sensitive private medical information – such as whether an individual is diabetic or has a urinary tract infection – regardless of the physical duties the applicant would perform on the job.  The ACLU of Hawai’i and co-counsel Adam Wolf asked the Court for a Temporary Restraining Order to prevent the County from obtaining this private information from Ms. Taylor-Failor’s bodily fluids, citing constitutional protections from suspicionless searches.

In an attempt to avoid litigation, the ACLU of Hawaii reached out to the Hawaii County Department of Corporation Counsel in 2013, explaining that the County’s policies and procedures were unconstitutional; the County responded – incorrectly – that its policies were valid.  But siding against the County, the Court ruled in its order that “the County has proffered no explanation as to why it is entitled to search Taylor-Failor’s urine before she may begin employment in her light duty, clerical, non-safety-sensitive position….  Employment requirements cannot stand where they violate rights of a constitutional dimension.”

Mr. Wolf said, “The Constitution protects government employees from such invasive medical examinations.  The County of Hawai’i has no need to demand that its clerks reveal whether they have a urinary tract infection or diabetes.  Today’s ruling is a historic step toward reforming pre-employment medical tests so that they comply with the constitution.”

Rebekah Taylor-Failor said, “I’m eager to start working for the County, and I’m glad that the Court is allowing me to do so without having to sacrifice my constitutional rights.”

ACLU of Hawai’i Legal Director Daniel Gluck said, “We are glad the Court has recognized that the government does not need to perform invasive searches of bodily fluids to determine whether an office worker can perform her job.  Medical data is some of our most privately held information, and it is critical that we protect it from government overreach.”

The mission of the Hawai’i affiliate of the ACLU is to protect the civil liberties contained in the state and federal constitutions through litigation, legislative and public education programs statewide. The ACLU is funded primarily through private donations and offers its services at no cost to the public. The ACLU does not accept any government funds.

Kauai Biomass Project Nears Completion

The new biomass-to-energy power plant near Koloa on Kauai has successfully started its hot commissioning and expects to begin selling electricity to Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) by the beginning of May 2015.

The 6.7-megawatt biomass-to-energy facility will burn wood chips from trees grown and harvested on Kauai.  The plant will provide more than 11 percent of the island’s energy needs.  Once in operation, the plant will replace 3.7 million gallons of imported oil a year.

Once in operation, the plant will replace 3.7 million gallons of imported oil a year.

The plant is being constructed by Green Energy Team LLC (GET), a Hawaii limited liability company, and is using a biomass energy generation technology developed by Standardkessel Baumgarte, a German company that is one of the world leaders in energy technology.

The plant will burn wood chips produced from several sources on Kauai, including short-rotation trees grown on about 2,000 acres of land and several locations on Kauai that have been cleared of invasive species.

The plant will have the capacity to generate 7.5-megawatts of renewable energy to be delivered as electricity to KIUC under a power purchase agreement approved by the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission in October 2011. Unlike solar and wind energy, the plant will provide firm power—day and night, independent of weather conditions—to KIUC. It will supply about 11 percent of Kauai’s annual electricity needs and will substitute power produced by diesel generators.

The facility will contribute to the State’s renewable energy portfolio goals that presently aim to have 70 percent of Hawaii’s energy needs from renewable resources. It will also be an addition to KIUC’s renewable energy portfolio, which currently consists of several hydropower projects and the utility co-op’s own two solar farms as well as other solar farms and customer-sited solar photovoltaic systems.

Construction on Green Energy Team’s biomass plant began in January 2013 and is nearly completed. Standardkessel provided the design and equipment for the plant and is providing construction management for the project. Construction was done by Bodell Construction Company; final work shall be completed by Diana Prince Construction, Inc. Financing for construction of the $90 million project is being provided by Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas.

Once completed and operational, Green Energy Team’s plant will create 39 permanent operating jobs and many indirect jobs for local service providers and agricultural operations.

The Kauai-based plant will be the first closed-loop biomass-to-energy plant in the United States and fueled by trees grown on-island. This is also the first commercial biomass project since the period when former sugar companies also sold electricity to Hawaii’s electric utilities.