Free Presentation By Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club

The Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club offers a free presentation by Julie Goettsch at the August 9 meeting. Open to those interested in orchids, the gathering is 7 p.m. at the Daifukuji Soto Mission Hall. A potluck starts off the meeting and guests are invited to participate.

Goettsch is past president of the Hilo Orchid Society and leads the Orchid Isle Project, a public service initiative with the goal to beautify the island through orchids. She will present “Since Before Dirt: The Unlikely History of Orchids that Made the Orchid Isle.”

For info, phone 808-328-8375.

The Kona Daifukuji Orchid Club is West Hawai‘i’s oldest orchidaceae organization with a mission to learn and foster orchid culture and promote fellowship among orchid collectors. The club meets the second Wednesday of every month at the Daifukuji Soto Mission Hall on Hwy. 11 at mile marker 114, just north of Kainaliu. For information, visit www.facebook.com/orchidsinparadise.

Big Island’s Do-It-Yourself Used Motor Oil Collection Sites

Used motor oil contains toxic substances that can contaminate our land, ground water and ocean. The County of Hawai‘i operates a program for the do-it-yourself person who changes their own non-business vehicle’s motor oil.

Do-it-yourself used motor oil collection sites at the following seven locations are open and accepting used motor oil:

  • Lex Brodie’s Tire & Service Center in Hilo
  • Pa‘auilo Village Service
  • Kealakehe High School Auto Shop
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts in Kona
  • CarTow Kohala in Hāwī
  • RPM Kawaihae
  • South Point U-Cart in Ocean View

Unfortunately, at this time, empty motor oil containers are not recyclable at a global level. Research is being conducted to study how to remove oil from plastic, but is still in development. To avoid contamination of other recyclable plastic, empty motor oil containers need to be placed in regular disposal.

For more information on hours of operation, acceptability conditions, and contact information, please visit our Used Motor Oil page at www.hawaiizerowaste.org/recycle/motor-oil. 

Hawaii Department of Health Certifies Lab to Begin Testing Medical Cannabis

Steep Hill Hawaii, a private independent laboratory on Oahu, can now begin testing medical cannabis from Hawaii’s licensed medical cannabis dispensaries and registered patients and caregivers. The Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) granted Steep Hill a provisional certification today after the laboratory successfully passed its final onsite inspection and met requirements that demonstrate it has the capacity and proficiency to test cannabis and manufactured cannabis in compliance with state law.

Click to visit

“We realize that registered patients and caregivers and some of the licensed dispensaries have been waiting for a laboratory to become operational to test medical cannabis prior to consumption and sale. This is a major step forward as it allows the dispensaries to now begin testing their products to sell to qualified patients,” said Keith Ridley, Chief of DOH’s Office of Health Care Assurance, who oversees the medical cannabis dispensary program.

A laboratory is restricted from handling, testing, or analyzing cannabis or manufactured cannabis products until it is certified by the state. Under the interim administrative rules governing the medical cannabis dispensary program, certification allows a laboratory to conduct specific tests required to ensure the safety of products sold to registered patients in Hawaii.

“Certification follows a rigorous scientific process that requires meticulous attention to detail and constant refining to ensure product and patient safety,” said Chris Whelen, chief of DOH’s State Laboratories Division. “Our State Laboratories Division team is currently working closely with two other private independent labs to help them obtain certification. They are continuing to submit or resubmit their validation studies for certification.”

To receive certification, a laboratory must submit validation studies to demonstrate it is capable of conducting testing with consistent and accurate results for the following areas: cannabinoid profile (including THC), compound that are considered “active ingredients,” heavy metals such as arsenic, pesticides, solvents, moisture content, microbial contaminants, intestinal bacteria and pathogens, dangerous molds that can cause infection and disease, and toxins produced by molds. In addition, a laboratory must also meet the accreditation standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii are required to have their products tested for safety by a state-certified independent laboratory prior to sale. Laboratories interested in providing testing for medical cannabis on Kauai, Hawaii Island, Maui, or Oahu may apply for state certification at http://health.hawaii.gov/statelab.

Governor to Consider Nominees to Fill the Vacancies in Third Circuit Court Left by the Retirement of Judges Hara and Ibarra

Gov. David Ige has received a list of nominees from the Judicial Selection Commission for the vacancies created by the retirement of former Circuit Court of the Third Circuit (Island of Hawaiʻi) Judges Glenn S. Hara and Ronald Ibarra.

The commission submitted the list of nominees to the governor on July 31, 2017 after careful evaluation and investigation into the background and qualifications of each applicant.

The nominees to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of the Honorable Glenn S. Hara are:

  • Harry P.N.S. Freitas – District Court Judge, District Court of the Third Circuit (Hawaiʻi)
  • Jeffrey A. Hawk – Attorney
  • Henry T. Nakamoto – District Family Court Judge, Third Circuit
  • Jeffrey W.S. Ng – Deputy Public Defender, State of Hawaiʻi Office of the Public Defender

The nominees to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of the Honorable Ronald Ibarra are:

  • Gregory A. Ferren – Attorney, Law Office of Gregory A. Ferren
  • Robert D.S. Kim – Attorney/President, Robert D.S. Kim, Inc.
  • Michael H. Schlueter – Attorney/Partner, Schlueter & Kwiat, LLLP
  • Kimberly B.M. Taniyama – Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, County of Hawaiʻi

Gov. Ige will interview each nominee and is seeking public comment through the governor’s website: http://governor.hawaii.gov/contact-us/contact-the-governor/.

Gov. Ige has 30 days, or until August 30 to make his appointments.

Hawaii Joins Multi-State Pledge to Strengthen Cyber Defense, Workforce

Gov. David Y. Ige today announced that Hawai‘i has joined a multi-state cybersecurity compact signed by 38 governors to enhance state cybersecurity and develop the cyber workforce.

The “Compact to Improve State Cybersecurity” is part of the National Governors Association’s “Meet the Threat: States Confront the Cyber Challenge” initiative. The compact makes recommendations to better secure states’ cyber infrastructure by building cybersecurity governance, preparing and defending the state from cybersecurity events, and growing the nation’s cybersecurity workforce.

Click to read

“The top priority of any governor is the public’s welfare and safety, which now includes protecting citizens from cyber threats,” Gov. Ige said. “I am proud to join my fellow governors in signing this compact and committing to its recommendations.”

The compact specifically recognizes that a “competent and plentiful workforce” is critical to successful cybersecurity policy.

“Hawaii has already taken proactive steps toward the compacts goals,” said state Chief Information Officer Todd Nacapuy, who leads the Office of Enterprise Technology Services, the agency responsible for securing state government information resources and infrastructure. “These include establishing a state chief information security officer, reclassifying IT security positions to align with modern industry best practices, offering cyber internship opportunities, and supporting programs such as SANS Institute’s CyberStart program that encourages high school and college students to explore careers in cybersecurity.”

Read the full Compact to Improve State Cybersecurity here:
https://governor.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/1707CybersecurityCompact.pdf

Endangered ‘Io Released After Recovering From Severe Wing Injury

An endangered ʻIo, Hawaiian hawk, has been returned to the wild after six months of extensive rehabilitation following a severe wing injury back in January. The ʻIo, a young female, was found with a fractured wing by a concerned citizen. The bird’s rescuer contacted the Division of Forestry and Wildlife who then sought out a local veterinary clinic to provide emergency care to stabilize the injured bird. Once stabilized, the ʻIo was transferred to the care of the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Center in Kapaʻau in the hopes that she could be rehabilitated for a second chance at life in the wild.

“Initially we were concerned about the location of the fracture and questioned the likelihood of her regaining the ability to fly and survive in the wild,” said Samantha Christie, Wildlife Rehabiltation Manager at the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Center. Fortunately, the ʻIo demonstrated a tenacious fighting spirit and overcame all obstacles between her and a triumphant return to the skies of Hawai‘i island. In total, the ʻIo spent six months in captivity as professional rehabilitators and veterinarians examined her case and prepared her for release.

The ʻIo was housed in large raptor aviary at HWC which allowed her to stretch her newly healed wing and exercise. “We were able to monitor her activity thanks to a remote camera in the enclosure. This way, we could minimize her contact with humans and still observe her progress,” said Christie. It seems the techniques were successful as the ʻIo exhibited a healthy fear and distrust of her caretakers throughout her captivity. “While I’m sure she appreciates the free mouse dinner, there’s no question of us being friends. This is a wild animal and she resists human contact and handling with all of her strength.”

Radiographs showed a severe fracture near the ‘Io’s shoulder.

The ʻIo was provided with a varied diet of mice, rats, and birds, but she took it upon herself to supplement her menu with something a bit more exciting. “Each raptor that we treat is presented with live prey before they are released to ensure that they have retained the ability to hunt. Not only did this ʻIo pass mouse prey-testing with flying colors, she was also seen on camera catching and eating large centipedes on several occasions,” said Alexis Wessels, Wildlife Rehabilitation Technician at HWC.

HWC consulted with experts regarding the timing and location of the ʻIo’s release. Her flight, hunting skills, body condition, feathers, and bloodwork were each evaluated to ensure that the young hunter was adequately prepared to return to a life in the wild. She was also banded by Hawai‘i Division of Forestry and Wildlife before her release. The tenacious ʻIo flew quickly and easily upon release outside the HWC facility in Kapaʻau. She came to rest in a nearby tree, seemily taking in her new surroundings and showing great interest in the small birds arriving to investigate the newcomer. Then, with surprising stealth and confidence, she took off to resume the mysterious life of a wild bird. Six months of hard work, collaboration, and dedication lead to this moment—a hard-fought success for an endangered species and a victory for Hawaiʻi’s native wildlife.  

Public Information Meeting to Introduce North Kohala Agricultural Water Study

A public information meeting to initiate the North Kohala Agricultural Water Study will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at the Kohala Village Hub – Barn, located at 55-514 Hawi Road, in Hawi, North Kohala, Hawai‘i.  The meeting is sponsored by DLNR and Sen. Lorraine Inouye.

Representatives of the DLNR Engineering Division and its consultants, Waimea Water Services, LLC are conducting the study to identify the current and future demands, and explore options to evaluate existing and potential new water sources and transmission necessary to meet the agricultural needs of the region.

Funds for this study were appropriated by the Legislature with the support of Senator Inouye.

Meeting facilitators are from One World One Water.

 For more information, or to request an ASL interpreter, materials in an alternative format, or other auxiliary aid support, please contact admin@oneworldonewater.org 5 days before the meeting.

PUC Approves HELCO-HU HONUA Amended, Restated PPA

Plant Will Be Completed in 2018 and Provide Dependable Renewable Energy

Yesterday, the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) informed Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC it had approved its amended and restated power purchase agreement with Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO).

Hu Honua site courtesy Hu Honua

Hu Honua will be a state-of-the-art bioenergy facility, providing firm, renewable, dispatchable energy. The Pepeekeo-based power plant will be completed in December 2018 and support the state’s clean energy goals, revitalize East Hawaii’s agricultural sector, and bring hundreds of new jobs to Hawaii Island.

The Commission conducted a detailed review of the Hu Honua project’s benefits and approved Hu Honua’s original Power Purchase Agreement with the HELCO in 2013. The amended, restated PPA provides HELCO customers with the same advantages as the original PPA but at a lower cost.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the PUC’s decision,” said Harold Robinson, president of Island Bioenergy, parent company of Hu Honua. “Now we can begin employing hundreds of additional workers from the building trades to accelerate construction and complete the plant by the end of 2018. We will also make arrangements to start forestry operations, including logging and transporting eucalyptus trees that will fuel our facility.”

The amended, restated PPA extends two contract milestones to allow Hu Honua to finish its half-completed biomass facility, and reduces and restructures the contract’s pricing and term.

Because the original PPA was already approved, the Commission limited its review of the amended, restated PPA to whether HELCO met its burden of proof for the following three issues:

  1. Request to waive Hu Honua’s project from the PUC’s framework for competitive bidding
  2. Whether the power costs to be paid by HELCO reflect the cost of biomass fuel supply and whether HELCO’s purchase power arrangements under the PPA are in the public interest
  3. Request for preferential rates for the purchase of renewable energy produced in conjunction with agricultural activities pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes § 269-27.3.

According to HELCO’s own analysis, Hu Honua will reduce its customers’ monthly bill by $1.21 per month over the term of the PPA, relative to HELCO’s current long-term projections. A separate independent analysis by PA Consulting showed Hu Honua will save ratepayers as much as $4.24 per month over the term of the PPA. PA Consulting’s analysis also shows Hu Honua would save ratepayers more than $1.3 billion over the course of the 30-year PPA relative to HELCO’s existing portfolio of fossil fuel plants, which is the benchmark the Commission used to determine the original PPA was in the public interest.

Hu Honua will provide foundational 30-year demand for the forestry sector that Hawaii policymakers and community leaders have long sought. Hu Honua will create more than 200 jobs in construction, 30 in plant management and operations, 90 in forestry and trucking, and an additional estimated 100 indirect jobs on Hawaii Island and statewide. Hu Honua is working with community partners on workforce development educational and internship opportunities.

A June 2017 independent scientific survey conducted by Anthology Research Group found that 75 percent of East Hawaii residents feel “very or somewhat favorable” about the completion of the Hu Honua Facility, and only 10 percent feel unfavorably about its completion. The margin of error for the survey is 5.06 percent.

About Hu Honua
Hu Honua Bioenergy, LLC is located in Pepeekeo on the Hamakua Coast of the island of Hawaii. When completed, the Hu Honua facility will be able to produce up to 30-megawatts (MW) of firm, baseload renewable power, which means the plant can deliver reliable power that can be dispatched 24 hours a day, seven days a week. When operating at capacity, Hu Honua will be able to produce approximately 15 percent of Hawaii Island’s electricity needs and displace approximately 280,000 barrels of imported oil per year.
For more information, www.huhonua.com

Guest Commentary – Audit the Honolulu Rail Project

What does it say about the state of governance in Hawaii that endorsing basic standards of fiscal responsibility is a revolutionary act?

Ever since the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii launched its campaign to “audit the rail,” we’ve heard lots of excuses and evasions as to why an independent, thorough audit of Honolulu’s over-budget and behind-schedule rail project isn’t necessary.

But we’ve also seen that the public wants answers about the system and isn’t happy with the political foot-dragging.

Now, we’re finally seeing some results.

Trevor Ozawa, Honolulu City Councilmember for District 4 (Ala Moana to Hawaii Kai), has introduced a resolution calling for an, “economy and efficiency audit” of the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART), in order to discover the causes of the project’s significant and troubling cost overruns.

Click to read the full resolution

Noting in his resolution that the estimated cost for the rail is now more than $10 billion — up from $5.1 million in 2012 — Ozawa points out that HART has not updated its financial plan “to reflect the rail project’s current financial condition”; that the semi-autonomous city agency has not been maintaining accurate and complete financial records; that its management, operations and maintenance plans are “outdated and unreliable”; that it lacks the proper tools to administer contract payments; and that the actual costs of the rail project are not being properly managed against budgeted costs.

Most of these failings aren’t news to anyone who has followed the rail controversy, but it is encouraging to see a key Hawaii policymaker finally demanding answers.

The resolution even states that the audit should both identify the causes of inefficient and uneconomical practices and investigate whether the “entity audited has complied with laws and regulations on matters of economy and efficiency.”

The resolution notes that in June, “certain HART board members indicated that the HART board would not fund a special audit that would examine the cost overruns for the rail project.” But, the resolution adds, “there must be a higher level of transparency concerning the reasons for the cost overruns.”

We agree.

It may have taken some time, but our message is getting through.

So let’s keep up the pressure. Ask your friends and family to join the campaign to audit the rail. If they haven’t already, they can add their names to our online petition at AuditTheRail.com.

E Hana Kakou (Let’s work together!),

Keli’i Akina, Ph.D.
President/CEO Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

Coast Guard Enforcing Lava Delta Safety Zone – Large Delta Collapse Expected

The Coast Guard continues to enforce the temporary Kamokuna Lava Delta Safety Zone for the navigable waters surrounding the Kilauea Volcano active lava flow entry into the Pacific Ocean on the southeast side of the Big Island, Hawai’i.

According to the U.S. Geologic Survey, several large cracks have developed in the lava delta, running parallel to the coastline and spanning the width of the delta. These cracks increase the likelihood of a large delta collapse.

“For mariners without prior limited entry approval, the safety zone encompases all waters extending 300 meters (984 feet) in all directions around the entry of the lava flow into the ocean and remains in effect,” said Lt. Cmdr. John Bannon, Coast Guard Sector Honolulu, waterways management lead. “All waterway users should be aware of this new delta formation, the potential for a significant collapse with little or no warning and the natural hazards associated with such an event.”

According to the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, large and dense fragments ejected during delta collapses can be thrown in all directions from the point of collapse, including out to sea.  Based on a review of nearly 30 years of delta collapse and ejection distance observations in the Hawaii Volcano Observatory records, a radius of 300 meters was determined as a reasonable minimum high hazard zone around a point of ocean entry.

Enforcement of the safety zone began March 28.  Lava delta growth and subsequent lava bench threat of collapse could cause an increase in hazardous conditions for mariners.  The ocean entry hazards result in lava delta instability and fracturing from lava accumulation built on unconsolidated lava fragments and sand.  This loose material can easily be eroded away by surf, causing the new land and existing sea cliff to become unsupported and slide explosively into the sea.  Getting too close to the lava can result in serious injury or death.

As long as lava enters the ocean, further sea cliff degradation, delta construction and hazardous conditions relating to the collapse are likely to occur.  These collapses occur with little to no warning and cannot be predicted. The Coast Guard took action to ensure public safety because of the aforementioned dangers.

The temporary Safety Zone is set to expire in September 28. Notification of any changes to the waterway safety zone enforcement will be provided to the public if the Safety Zone is changed or deactivated earlier than anticipated.

Furthermore, the Coast Guard promulgated a Notice of Proposed Rule Making to establish a permanent Safety Zone for this region.  Feedback was solicited from the public on this rule making process.  Comments were collected in docket number USCG-1017-0234 viewable in the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.

Hawaii Supreme Court Refuses to Reconsider Decision in Substitute and Part-Time Teachers Case

The Hawaii Supreme Court yesterday denied a motion for reconsideration in Kawashima v. State of Hawaii. Last month the Supreme Court ruled in Kawashima that certain substitute teachers and part-time teachers who had worked for the State of Hawaii at relevant times between 2000 and 2012 were not entitled to back wages or interest for alleged underpayments by the State.

That decision by the Hawaii Supreme Court closed more than a decade of litigation and ends the claims raised by the class action plaintiffs. The plaintiffs filed a motion for reconsideration of that decision, which the Supreme Court has now denied.

The State of Hawaii was represented at all stages of this litigation, including the appeal, by state attorneys from within the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General. The class action plaintiffs were represented by the local law firm Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing.

A copy of yesterday’s ruling from the Hawaii Supreme Court denying the motion for reconsideration is attached.

Land Board Sets Oral Arguments for TMT Contested Case

Today State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) Chair Suzanne Case set Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 to hear oral arguments in the Contested Case Hearing for the Thirty Meter Telescope at the Mauna Kea Science Reserve on Hawai‘i Island.

Click to view

Two days ago, the Contested Case Hearing Officer presented her recommendations which serve as the “proposal for decision” by the BLNR.  Parties to the contested case may file exceptions to retired Judge Riki May Amano recommendations not later than August 21, 2017 at 4:00 p.m.

During the BLNR hearing, each party to the case will have fifteen (15 minutes) to present oral arguments.  Time may not be assigned from one party to the other.  The BLNR may elect to ask questions after each party has completed argument but that time will not count toward the 15 minute total. There are twenty-three (23) parties to the case.

The oral arguments will be heard at the Grand Naniloa Hotel Crown Room, 93 Banyan Drive in Hilo.  Extended media coverage provisions approved for the Contested Case hearing will be continued for the BLNR oral arguments.  Naleo Community Television will be the designated electronic pool provider and will live stream the proceedings.

Hawaii State Land Board Approves “Safe Harbor Agreement” for Keauhou, Kilauea, Ka’u Areas on the Big Island

Approving a 50-year-long Safe Harbor Agreement today, the State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) agreed to Kamehameha Schools plan to promote the recovery of endangered and threatened species on nearly 33,000 acres of forest and shrubland at Keauhou and Kīlauea on Hawaiʻi Island.

The Safe Harbor Agreement is a cooperative effort between Kamehameha Schools, DLNR, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support the conservation of threatened and endangered (federally listed) species, while KS conducts certain land-use practices. It establishes baseline populations for species, details the type of habitat that must be maintained and specifies land-use practices to increase population baselines.

The agreement covers seven native birds including the Hawai‘i Creeper, the Hawai‘i ‘Ākepa, the Hawaiian Hawk (‘Io), the Hawaiian Crow (‘Alalā), and the Hawaiian Goose (Nēnē).

Hawaiian Creeper

It also includes the Hawaiian Hoary Bat (‘Ōpe‘ape‘a) and 25 plant species. The SHA outlines detailed monitoring protocols to avoid and minimize injury or mortality and to provide “net benefit” to the species. Net benefits include increasing the current ranges of covered species, restoring historic ranges and increasing wild populations of species. It is also intended to reduce habitat fragmentation by connecting a network of protected and managed state, federal, and private lands within the south central region of Hawai‘i Island.

In addition to the Safe Harbor Agreement, the BLNR approved an Incidental Take License, which provides mitigation measures in the event land-use practices result in the loss of any of the endangered or threatened species covered by the agreement. The result of an Incidental Take License is to end up with a net positive gain in the population of a covered species.

This Safe Harbor Agreement, which has been reviewed extensively for more than a year and was the subject of numerous open meetings, is being heralded as an important step towards species protection and recovery across critical habitat for these endangered and threatened species. Jackie Gaudioso-Levita, the ‘Alalā Restoration Project Coordinator for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife said, “The momentous finalization of this large-scale Safe Harbor agreement will particularly benefit imperiled species, such as the ‘Alalā, which will be reintroduced on State land adjacent to the Keauhou-Ka‘ū Kamehameha Schools parcel, thereby in-part, protecting and managing potential ‘Alalā habitat for decades to come.”

Kamehameha Schools CEO Jack Wong commented, “This agreement strengthens Kamehameha Schools’ ability to steward these lands in a manner that fosters healthy habitats for species fighting to survive. As we work toward a thriving lāhui, the cultural connection to ‘āina that is healthy and vibrant becomes much more important for Native Hawaiians and all the people of our State.”

Kamehameha Schools Ecologist Nāmaka Whitehead said that Hawaiians are Hawaiians because of the ‘āina. “Healthy, functioning native ecosystems are the foundation of Hawaiian cultural identity and well-being. Stewarding our ʻāina to be more resilient ensures that future generations will continue to have a relationship with the native species and ecological processes that make us who we are. I Hawaiʻi no nā Hawaiʻi i ka ʻāina. Our ʻāina, Hawaiʻi, is what makes us Hawaiian.”

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case added, “The vast acreage covered by this Safe Harbor Agreement is incredibly important to the recovery and perpetuation of these vital bird, bat, and plant species. We are extremely happy to have worked out this agreement with Kamehameha Schools and in the coming decades look forward to many great stories of native species success as a result.”

About Pahoa’s New Library

Well it looks like Pahoa will be getting a new library!

In a Mayor Kim response letter to State Librarian Stacey A. Aldrich dated July 26th 2017,  Kim stated that the county fully supports a new public library for Pahoa and would allow it at the existing location where the Pahoa Police and Fire Station currently exists on Highway 130 as long as there is a separate access that wouldn’t interfere with emergency response vehicles.

Hawaii Electric Light Warns Customers About Impersonators on Hawaii Island

Hawaii Electric Light Company warns electric customers about an apparent telephone scam targeting business customers on Hawaii Island. Customers reported receiving calls threatening immediate disconnection unless they pay their bill by making a money transfer or cash express payment via a bill payment machine at a retail establishment. The utility does not accept bill payments via MoneyGram and Green Dot MoneyPak.“We would like to remind customers to be cautious when responding to callers who demand immediate payment of their electric bill,” said Rhea Lee-Moku, Hawaii Electric Light spokesperson. “Ask for the individual’s name and phone number and say you will call back; then call our Customer Service Center to verify the call.”

Customers wishing to pay their electric bills in person may do so at the utility’s customer service offices in Hilo and Kona. In addition, official walk-in payments may also be made at these approved locations:

  • First Hawaiian Bank
  • Foodland
  • Kmart
  • Sack-N-Save
  • Safeway
  • Wal-Mart
  • Western Union

Hawaii Electric Light offers these safety tips to protect customers from scams:

  • Your best defense is to exercise caution.
  • Don’t provide personal, confidential, or financial information—including billing information—to any unidentified individuals.
  • Ask questions. Get the caller’s name, phone number, and company name. Offer to call back after you verify the information.
  • If you have any doubt about a call, email, or visit from someone claiming to represent Hawaii Electric Light, please call our Customer Service Center in Hilo (969-6999), Kona (329-3584) or Waimea (855-4605).
  • If you made a payment, do not call an 800 number to provide the confirmation number or to report it. Instead, call our Customer Service Center.
  • Report any suspicious activity to police.

Hawaii Attorney General Leads Coalition Urging Congress to Protect Transgender Service Members

In a letter to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, Attorney General Doug Chin today led a coalition of 19 attorneys general expressing their opposition to the President’s ban on transgender people serving in the Armed Forces. The letter was joined by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington D.C.

Attorney General Chin said, “Policies that have no factual basis and that marginalize and reject classes of people have no place in the 21st century.”

On Wednesday, the President by tweet announced a new ban on transgender service members, citing unnamed support from military leadership. In response, the attorneys general declare the ban is discriminatory and, despite the President’s claims otherwise, is actually harmful to military readiness. The letter notes that approximately 150,000 transgender service members have served in the United States Armed Forces:

“Transgender service members fill a number of critical military roles. Retaining these talented service members strengthens—not weakens— our military readiness.”

The attorneys general remind the House and Senate committees of the honorable service performed by transgender service members, writing:

“The members of our Armed Forces put their lives on the line to protect freedom for all Americans. Thousands of transgender Americans serve in uniform today. This policy tells them, ‘you are not welcome here.’ The decision to oust honorable, well-trained, and patriotic service members based on nothing more than their gender identity is undiluted discrimination and therefore indefensible. We urge that this newly announced policy be immediately reversed.”

Click to read full letter

Hawaii State Environmental Council Updating EIS Rules

The State Environmental Council has released a preliminary draft of revisions to the state environmental impact statement (EIS) administrative rules. The rules were last updated in 1996, although an exemption for acquiring land for affordable housing was added in 2007.

Click to view

“This is a major milestone for us. The Environmental Council initiated the process of revising the rules in 2012, but the volunteer board lacked the support and resources necessary to complete the effort at that time. Thanks to the diligent work of numerous volunteers, as well as Governor Ige’s administration, this preliminary draft will provide a useful starting point for us as a council to engage agencies and the public. I’m really proud of the effort my colleagues put into making this first draft, and I’m looking forward to getting the public’s feedback and proceeding to the next step,” said Joseph Shacat, Council Chair.

The Environmental Council is responsible for making rules for preparing EISs under chapter 343, Hawaiʻi Revised Statutes (HRS). The EIS process is described in detail in Hawaiʻi Administrative Rules (HAR) Chapter 11-200. The current rules are available on the Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) website (http://health.hawaii.gov/oeqc) and the draft language can be downloaded directly from: http://oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov/Laws/2017-07-27-Report-Prelim-Rules-Revisions-Draft.pdf.

The preliminary draft helps to clarify:

  • roles and responsibilities at various stages of the EIS process;
  • submittals and deadlines using electronic communication;
  • when an exemption is appropriate and the role of exemption lists;
  • how to proceed to directly preparing an EIS;
  • how to do programmatic EISs and supplemental EISs;
  • how to respond to comments; and
  • how to do combined federal and state EISs, among other things.

“This is the start of a conversation. We are focused on modernizing these 20-year-old rules and making them clearer so people who participate in the EIS process have a better sense of their roles and responsibilities,” said Scott Glenn, Director of the OEQC and Vice Chair of the Council.

Following the release of this preliminary draft, the Council will continue to refine the language before conducting formal public hearings pursuant to chapter 91, HRS. In the meantime, the public has the opportunity to offer comments to the Council at its publicly noticed meetings. The Council normally holds its meetings on the second Tuesday of every month.

The Environmental Council has several critical functions that affect the environment and development across Hawaiʻi. The Council is a liaison between the Director of the OEQC and the general public. The OEQC’s Director Scott Glenn regularly advises Gov. Ige on environmental matters. The Council also monitors the progress of the state in meeting its environmental goals through the publication of its annual report on the state of Hawaiʻi’s environment. It creates the administrative rules for Hawaiʻi’s EIS process and vets state and county agency lists for actions that can be considered exempt from having to prepare EISs or environmental assessments.

Additional information about the Environmental Council is available at http://health.hawaii.gov/oeqc/environmental-council/.

Officer Jared Cabatu Named East Hawaii Officer of the Month

Officer Jared Cabatu (a 9-year police veteran) has been named as the East Hawaiʻi Aloha Exchange Club’s Officer of the Month for (July).

Jared Cabatu

On (May 23), a Hilo resident reported that a theft had occurred at their home. Neighborhood checks produced a witness who gave a description of the men involved as well as a description of their vehicle. An All Points Bulletin was initiated.

On (May 30), Officer Jared Cabatu was on patrol and observed a vehicle matching the description given by the witness as well as that of the driver.

Officer Cabatu, via police records, identified the driver and made contact with him convincing him to voluntarily come to the station for questioning, where he was subsequently arrested. Cabatu was able to identify the second suspect who was arrested as well.

This type of attention to detail, diligence and persistence is a trait that Officer Cabatu always exhibits. He is very passionate about apprehending suspects and this passion has led to many arrests and case closures.

Community Clean-Up at Old Airport Park in Kona – No Camping Allowed

The County of Hawai’i will enforce a no-camping policy at the Old Airport Park in Kona from Wednesday, August 2, 2017, and all belongings and housing structures in the park must be removed by that date.  This is aimed at improving this facility as a community park.

Homeless people camping at the park are being instructed to leave, and a limited number of spaces at homeless shelters are available to receive them.

In the meantime, outreach workers from HOPE Services, Veterans Outreach, the West Hawai’i Health Clinic, Access Capabilities, County Parks and Recreation, Office of Housing and Community Development, the Mayor’s Office (Kona), and faith-based volunteers, have been reaching out to the people living in the park.

HOPE Services is coordinating existing housing inventory, and available housing options are being offered to the most vulnerable homeless people first, i.e., families, the elderly, chronically homeless, as well as those with substance abuse or mental health issues.

“HOPE Services is doing their very best to house those who qualify in the short time we have before August 2,” said Assistant Housing Administrator Lance Niimi, who asked that the public notify his office if other housing options may be made immediately available for the homeless. “Every bed space helps.”

“This is a comprehensive effort involving the community, State and County government, service organizations, businesses and volunteers, to make this a better place,” Niimi said.

The Mayor’s Office is currently in negotiations for a possible alternative site for the homeless in the vicinity, which could become available by the end of the year.

The Police Department will be monitoring to ensure that campers do not return to the park. The enforcement takes place as the Department of Parks and Recreation gears up for clean-up efforts on Wednesday, August 9 and Thursday, August 10, 2017.

 

Inadequate Housing in Hawaii Plays a Large Role in Unnecessary Hospitalizations

Homelessness and inadequate housing are major causes of unnecessary hospitalizations, according to a study by University of Hawai‘i researchers.

The finding is from an ongoing project to understand and reduce potentially preventable hospitalizations for diabetes and heart disease in Hawaiʻi under Principal Investigator Tetine Sentell, an associate professor in the UH Office of Public Health Studies. Said Sentell, “We were interested in patient perspectives on the role of housing as contributing to their potentially preventable hospitalization.”

Tetine Sentell and Michelle Quensell

Reported lead author of the study, Michelle Quensell, a UH public health graduate, “We talked to 90 patients, and almost 25% reported a housing-related issue as a major factor in hospitalization. About half of these patients were homeless, noting the high cost of housing in Hawai‘i.”

Added Sentell, “Patients said it was hard to care for their diabetes or heart disease when they were living without amenities such as refrigeration, running water, a stove or a safe place to store medications. Patients also mentioned the challenges of following diet plans when canned goods were the only available foods at the shelters and food banks.”

Several major health providers in Hawaiʻi have recently created innovative new programs to address social determinants, including housing, within the health-care setting to improve health-care quality and reduce health-care costs. This research strongly supports these efforts.

Quensell is a 2015 graduate of the Health Policy and Management programs within Public Health. Other investigators included Kathryn Braun from Public Health; Deborah Taira at the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy, University of Hawai’i at Hilo; and Todd Seto at the Queen’s Medical Center.

For more information, visit: http://manoa.hawaii.edu/publichealth/