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First Hawaii Electric Light Rate Increase in 6 years Approved

Interim 3.4% increase supports continued renewable energy progress

Hilo, Hawaii, Aug. 22, 2017 – The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has issued an interim decision approving Hawaii Electric Light Company’s first base-rate increase in more than six years.

The approved interim rate will increase the typical Hawaii Island monthly residential bill for 500 kilowatt hours by $4.98. Over the last 12 months, the average monthly residential bill has been $162.58. The 3.4 percent increase – $9.9 million in annual revenue – will help pay for capital improvements including grid upgrades and extensive vegetation management work that is credited with reducing outages and their duration during storms.

Since 2014, Hawaii Electric Light has spent more than $14 million on tree trimming and removal, concentrating on areas where non-native albizia trees threaten utility equipment and highways.

Today’s interim decision is consistent with a settlement reached last month between Hawaii Electric Light and the Hawaii Division of Consumer Advocacy. The settlement reduced by nearly half the original request for a 6.5 percent increase in revenue.

The effective date of the new rate will be determined by the commission.

An interim decision is one step in the ratemaking process. The PUC will continue to review the request and will later issue a final decision. If a lower final amount is approved, the difference will be refunded to customers with interest. If a higher amount is approved, the increase will only be applied going forward from the time it is approved, not retroactively.

Hawaii Electric Light leads the state in the use of renewable resources to generate electricity, relying on a diverse portfolio of wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower. Since 2010, the company has increased the use of renewables from 35 percent to 57 percent as of June 2017.

There are several programs available that provide financial assistance for those who are in need, including the Hawaii Low Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP), Ohana Energy Gift Program, and the Special Medical Needs Program. The Time-of-Use program, which offers lower rates during the daytime hours, can help you save money if you’re flexible on when you use energy. Go to www.hawaiielectriclight.com for more information.

Editors note – Hawaii as a state has always been one of the most expensive states for electricity:

Traffic Transitioning to Makai Portion of Queen Kaahumanu Highway Beginning Tomorrow

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) announces the transition of vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic to the newly paved Makai section of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway. Two-way traffic will be shifted between Hina Lani Street and a point north of Keahole Airport Road from the existing Mauka roadway to the new Makai portion of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway starting at 9 p.m. Wednesday, August 23, 2017. The shift in traffic is expected to be completed at approximately 6 a.m. Thursday, August 24, 2017, weather permitting.

Traffic control measures, including flaggers and police officers, will be onsite to direct traffic during the transition.

HDOT thanks the public for their patience as we continue the work on the Queen Kaahumanu Highway Widening, Phase 2 and informs road users that the existing Mauka portion of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway between Keahole Airport Road and Hulikoa Drive will be closed following the traffic shift.

HDOT and all the Project Team members are committed to the completion of this project and anticipate that the Queen Kaahumanu Highway Widening, Phase 2 will be substantially complete in August 2018. The latest progress payment percentage as of July 26, 2017, was 67 percent.

For the latest information on this project, please visit http://buildqueenk.com

Coffee With a Cop Day

Today (August 22), from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. South Hilo Community Police Officers partnered with Zippy’s Restaurant in Hilo for Coffee with a Cop. The event allows members of the public to speak to officers in a relaxed setting, building partnerships between law enforcement and the community. Throughout the morning officers spoke to over 20 citizens on a variety of topics.

Pictured are officers with the South Hilo Community Police Unit, Neighborhood Watch Liaison-Bobbye St. Ambrogio, along with Zippy’s employees at Zippy’s Restaurant.

The 2nd Annual National Coffee with a Cop Day is (October 4). Officers with the Hawaiʻi Police Department will be at the Puainako Starbucks in Hilo from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. that day.

Senator Lorraine Inouye’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

 

Senator Lorraine Inouye

Aloha Damon,

Thank you for your email.

Although there are plans to go into Special Session, we have not gotten official word from the Leadership of both Houses, specifically, the President of the State Senate and the Speaker of the House, about whether we will convene and the dates. The last week in August has been targeted but no word as of today.

Hence, there Is no draft bill to reference, however there is a federal deadline such that your questions are timely and relevant and I am happy to respond to your questions:

Question 1: Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?

My answer is absolutely NO. The rail project is on O’ahu, and the initial financial plan the Legislature approved 10 years ago was to allow the City and County of Honolulu to increase the GET by ½% specifically for the purposes of building an elevated rail system.

Ten years ago, as Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, I was one of the Senate negotiators and I supported the original bill for a 1% increase. However, during the course of the hearings, the Oahu Senators and State House of Representatives did not support it and ended up with the final ½%. Had we stayed with the 1%, we would not be in this position today.

As my District 4 constituents know, there is now a proposal under consideration to have the neighbor islands assist with rescuing Oahu on their shortfall by using – or more accurately, absconding – some of the Transient Accommodation Tax generated by Hawaii Island hotels. I absolutely cannot support this.

I have been in my district the last several days and all of those we have spoken to, and also many emails that I’ve received are not in support of paying into the rail shortfall. I have also circulated a poll and it is resoundingly opposed to this. My constituents have shared widely differing reasons for opposing use of neighbor island-generated TAT for rail on Oahu, and I agree with many of their reasons. Bottom line: it is not fair or equitable. The people of Hawaii County are already shouldering a recent increase in taxes – both property and fuel taxes. I will support my constituents first and foremost and those outside of my district on Hawaii Island and oppose such a proposal.

Question 2: Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?

My answer is YES. For the sake of my constituents, I must reiterate that this 0.5% GET Surcharge would apply only to Oahu, not the neighbor islands. I would support it but must also note that this proposed 6-year extension would not fully fund the shortfall. My preference is to support the City and County of Honolulu’s and the rail authority’s request to extend the Surcharge for an additional 10 years – to cover the shortfall – thereby not touching the Transient Accommodations Tax. I must add however, that even a 10-year GET Surcharge extension for Oahu is problematic because it would primarily be used for building the rail.
What about operational and maintenance costs going forward? They are not in the equation. This is why the County’s original request was to extend the GET Surcharge in perpetuity. Bottom line, this option, while it would address federal government funding requirements in the short term, it really amounts to kicking the can down the road for the next generation to resolve. This is sad.

Question 3: Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?

My answer is YES. I have shared a recommendation to allow the City and County of Honolulu the option to raise an additional 1% with Legislative leadership. I also believe such an increase may have to go for several more years as a 2-year extension may not fully fund the shortfall.

Thank you, Damon, for helping the people of Hawaii, especially neighbor islanders, understand what’s at stake and have their voices heard.

Sincerely, Lorraine R. Inouye
Senator, District 4 (Hawai’i Island – North Hilo-Hamakua-Waimea-Kohala-Waikoloa-North Kona)

Short-Lived Lava Falls at Kamokuna Ocean Entry

On Saturday, August 19 at 04:10 HST a breakout that started 120 m (394 ft) up-slope of the ocean entry, began to spill over the sea cliff and onto the delta.

The lava fall was located to the west of the ramp (tubed-over firehose), and produced a small ‘a‘ā flow on the western portion of the delta. This breakout was short-lived and appeared to have died by 1:30 pm HST, lasting about 9.5 hours. The photo pictured above was taken at 6:40 am HST, showing the lava fall and some faint activity of the ‘a‘ā flows on the far side of the delta. Many cracks remain and continue to widen on the delta, although they are more difficult to see in the early morning light.

At 9:35 pm HST on August 19, there was a large littoral explosion near the front of the delta.

Another smaller explosion was seen 5 minutes later. These explosions are typically caused by mixing of cool sea water and hot lava. The August 19 explosions were not followed by obvious delta subsidence or collapse, something we have seen in the past.

Silver Anniversary of Hawaii’s Woodshow

Celebrating the Silver Anniversary of Hawaii’s Woodshow will be a highlight for all wood art enthusiasts. The exhibition is free and open to the public and will run September 23 through October 8, 2017, Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am until 5 pm at the Honolulu Museum of Art School at Linekona.

In celebration of Hawaii’s Woodshow 25th anniversary, HFIA is launching the first annual Innovation + Imagination (I²) Challenge. This fun, competitive division provides participating students with a mixed bundle of 10 board feet of locally-grown woods to construct either a wall-hung or free-standing piece. Student entries will be on display at this year’s Hawaii’s Woodshow.

Voyaging Table by Tai Lake. Photo: Brad Goda 2016

“I² is a creative way to engage students and get them excited about working with wood and creating wonderful pieces,” said Marian Yasuda, longtime coordinator of Hawaii’s Woodshow. “We are really looking forward to imaginative and inspired art pieces.”

Hawai’i Tourism Authority (HTA) awarded HFIA $7,000 through the Community Enrichment Program (CEP) for Hawaii’s Woodshow™ Silver Anniversary exhibition. The CEP Program fosters community-based tourism projects to improve and enrich Hawaii’s product offerings. CEP supports community-based projects that provide unique, authentic and highly-valued visitor experiences and represents activities that are developed by our community, for our com. munity, and are things the community is willing to and wants to share with our visitors.

Hawai’i Craftsmen (HC) awarded HFIA $250 through their Strategic Partnership Program (SPP) for the Masters Award of Distinction for the 2017 Hawaii’s Woodshow. In addition, Hawai’i Craftsmen is providing a free one year membership to two Woodshow participants chosen by the jurors. The goals of the SPP, marking Hawai’i Craftsmen’s 50th anniversary, are to support Hawaii craft organizations’ projects to add value to those activities, strengthen Hawai’i Craftsmen’s relationships with those partners, expand workshop and exhibition opportunities for their members, and build awareness of and membership in Hawai’i Craftsmen.

Mango Concert Ukulele by David Gomes. Photo: Brad Goda 2016

The exhibition brings attention to artisans using Hawai’i-grown tree species as well as the importance of sustainable forest management. Hawaii’s Woodshow helps HFIA tell the story of Hawaii’s forests, conservation and sustainability by limiting the types of wood allowed. Woodshow entries are created from interesting and beautiful Hawai’i grown woods, especially non-native species that are available but underutilized.

HFIA is honored to have three distinguished artists who have graciously volunteered to jury this year’s entries: Mark Sfirri, who runs the Fine Woodworking Program at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pennsylvania; John Gonczar who has been designing and building fine furniture for more than 30 years; and Noe Tanigawa who works primarily in encaustic (wax) and gold leaf or in wax and oil on lutrador. In addition to Hawai’i Tourism Authority and Hawai’i Craftsmen, 2017 Hawaii’s Woodshow sponsors to date are DLNR – Division of Forestry & Wildlife, Hawai’i Forest Institute, Hawai’i State Foundation on Culture and Arts, Tusher Architectural Group, Woodcraft Hawai’i, Ron Kent, C. Barton Potter, Co., Peter & Heather Simmons, Thomas Loudat, Scheurenbrand Guitars, Shaun Fleming-Wooden Touches LLC, Steven Hill, and WhiteSpace Architects.

Senator Russell Ruderman’s Response to Questions on Special Session on Honolulu Rapid Transit System

Sen. Ruderman

Editors Note:  I only received one e-mail and got a follow-up later this afternoon.  The following post has been edited to reflect that miscommunication:

Sorry, Damon, my mistake. This was supposed to be first answer.

Questions:

1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?

Answer:

I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail.

If new Big Island TAT funds all go to Big Island, then I will consider it.

2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE? YES OR NO?

YES,
This question is not clear on the outer island tax increase issue. I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail.( GE or TAT)

3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE? YES or NO

YES

This question is not clear on the outer island tax increase issue. I will vote “NO” if any funds from outer islands are used for rail. ( GE or TAT)

I would support either GET extension if it funds rail w/o increasing TAT, or increasing ANY tax on outer islands.

Mahalo,
Russell

While I agree rail ought to be finished, there are two bigger concerns here for me. First, the project has been grossly mismanaged, and throwing more money at such a project without fixing the mismanagement is rarely a good idea.

Secondly here in Puna our only road in and out is the deadliest highway and the state and it’s the fastest growing district in the state. So I cannot agree to subsidizing Oahu’s project while our urgent needs go unmet.


Aloha Sen. Ruderman,

Mahalo for representing the Big Island in legislative issues. I have some questions for you folks and hope you will respond to me by Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017
Questions:
1. Will you vote YES or NO on a 1% STATEWIDE increase to the Transient Accommodations Tax (9.25% to 10.25%) to help fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System in the upcoming legislative special session?
If your answer is YES, please explain why? If your answer is NO, please explain why?
2. Would you support a 6 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% from 2027 to 2034 if this will help fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
3. Would you support an increase of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge of 0.5% to 0.62% and a 3 year extension of the Honolulu General Excise Tax Surcharge from 2028 to 2030 if this will fully fund the Honolulu Rapid Transit System without raising the Transient Accommodations Tax STATEWIDE?
YES or NO
Thank you for your participation in this quick and important decision that will affect all of us on this island.