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Rep. Gabbard Introduces Bill to Protect Macadamia Nuts and Fund Invasive Species Research in Hawaii

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced legislation today to help fight the macadamia felted coccid, an invasive species destroying macadamia trees and threatening the domestic macadamia nut industry at large.

Since the invasive insect was introduced to Hawaiʻi in 2005, it has cost the local macadamia nut industry millions every year, threatening the vitality of one of Hawaiʻi’s most important crops. The Macadamia Tree Health Initiative would authorize highly sought research and development to help fight the invasive insect and establish an Areawide Integrated Pest Management (AIPM) plan in affected areas to help manage the invasive pest in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly, and cost effective way.

macadamia-felted-coccid

“The macadamia felted coccid is one of more than 4,300 invasive species that threaten our agriculture industry in Hawaiʻi and across the United States. In Hawaiʻi alone, this pest costs our local farmers, landowners and agriculture industry millions of dollars a year, and puts hundreds of local farms, thousands of local workers, and the future of one of our most important crops at risk,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “As I visited multiple farms on Hawaiʻi Island last month, I heard story after story of how this tiny invasive insect is destroying farms and threatening the livelihood of communities like Kona, Kaʻu, and Hilo. Very little is known about this invasive pest, making it difficult for our agriculture workers to fight back. The Macadamia Tree Health Initiative will authorize much-needed research and development and establish a comprehensive management plan to help our local agriculture industry combat these invasive, harmful insects.”

“The Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau applauds Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s efforts to help the Hawaiʻi macadamia industry and fully supports the proposed Macadamia Tree Health Initiative. Federal funding is desperately needed to find a solution to controlling the macadamia felted coccid which has severely impacted the Hawaiʻi macadamia growers. The initiative can be a game changer in our farmers’ fight against this devastating pest,” said the Hawaiʻi Farm Bureau Federation.

“The Edmund C. Olson Trust No. 2 is a grower of over 1,100 acres of macadamia orchards on the island of Hawaiʻi and a part owner of Hamakua Macadamia Nut Company, a processor of several million pounds of nuts grown by the Trust and many dozens of independent growers around the island. We truly appreciate Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s proposed Macadamia Tree Health Initiative. The invasive macadamia felted coccid is an especially damaging pest to many growers on Hawaiʻi Island. The health and wellness of our trees translates into a healthy industry able to keep our employees and their families with good jobs.  Further, healthy trees also assure consumers that Hawaiian-grown macadamia nuts will continue to be the finest macadamia products for many years to come. This bill will help not only our farm but that of the 16,000 acres of other growers and processors that combined produce some 50 million pounds of nuts each year,” said John Cross, land manager for the the Edmund C. Olson Trust II.

“Royal Hawaiian Orchards (RHO) is a grower of macadamia nuts on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi and supports the Macadamia Tree Health Initiative. The threat to the macadamia orchards in Hawaiʻi from the macadamia felted coccid (MFC) is real and potentially devastating. The plan to develop and disseminate the best science based tools for treating MFC will make the Macadamia Tree Health Initiative exactly what the industry needs,” said Martin E. Ramirez, Director of Farming Operations at Royal Hawaiian Services.

Background: Last year, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced the Areawide Integrated Pest Management (AIPM) Act (H.R.3893) to support long-term sustainable solutions to many pest management problems and reduce invasive species impact on agriculture and the environment. The bill would help farmers in Hawaiʻi and across the country fight invasive species like the coffee berry borer, fruit flies, and macadamia felted coccid [kok-sid]. AIPM systems reduce reliance on a single pest management tactic, reduce risks to human health and the environment, and increases economic benefits for farming communities across the nation.

AirAsia X Expects to Start Hawaii Service in 2017

airasia-x

According to Flight Global, AirAsia X will begin flight service to Hawaii:

AirAsia X expects to launch services on the Kuala Lumpur-Osaka-Hawaii route in the first quarter of 2017.

Speaking to journalists during World Routes, carrier chief executive Benyamin Ismail says that FAA approval has taken longer than expected, but should arrive soon.

Services will initially run four-times-weekly, but this will grow to daily in the summer season. The carrier has fifth freedom privileges throughout Japan, except for Tokyo.

You can read the full article here:  ROUTES: AirAsia X expects to start Hawaii service in 1Q 2017

Rep. Gabbard Calls for Accountability on DoD Travel Card Abuse and Waste

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and a bipartisan group of Congressional Members delivered a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter calling for the Department of Defense (DoD) to address millions of dollars misused by DoD personnel on government travel credit cards. The letter follows a recent Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD OIG) report revealing inadequate action by the DoD to respond to multiple cases of abuse in recent years.

gabbard-travel-card

Click to read report

“In just one year, from July 2013 to June 2014, an initial audit found 4,437 transactions totaling $952,258 in which government travel cards were likely used at casinos for personal expenditures. Furthermore, the report noted more than 900 instances of these government-issued cards being used at adult entertainment establishments, totaling $96,576,” the lawmakers wrote.

“The most recent report found that the Department of Defense has failed to take appropriate actions to resolve the issues highlighted by the previous audit. The Department has not taken steps to eliminate additional misuse of the government travel cards, initiated reviews for improper payments, or consistently considered the security implications of the misused travel cards. As a result, the government travel card program remains susceptible to continued waste and exploitation.”

The letter was also signed by Reps. Jim Costa (CA-16), Paul Gosar (AZ-04), Walter B. Jones (NC-03), Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09). Full text is available below:

Dear Secretary Carter,

We are writing to express our concern about DoD personnel misusing government travel cards and American tax payer dollars.

The Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD OIG) has investigated these abuses on multiple occasions in recent years. The most recent investigation resulted in a report, issued on August 30, 2016, in which the DoD OIG found the Department has not done enough to respond to the infractions. The report findings also suggest the Department still maintains insufficient processes to address the problem: insufficient instruction on the appropriate use of the government travel card; improper reimbursements for personal expenses; and a tepid response from DoD management to correct these issues. Most troubling is that the most recent audit was conducted as a response to a previous report on DoD misuse of government travel cards released in 2015.

In a one year period from July 2013 to June 2014, the initial audit found 4,437 transactions totaling $952,258 in which government travel cards were likely used at casinos for personal use. Furthermore, the report noted more than 900 instances of cards being used at adult entertainment establishments, totaling $96,576.

The most recent report found that the DoD has not taken appropriate actions to resolve the issues highlighted by the previous audit. The DoD has not taken steps to eliminate additional misuse, initiate reviews for improper payments, or consistently considered the security implications of the misused travel cards. As a result, the government travel card program remains vulnerable to continued waste and exploitation.

The DoD IG made a number of recommendations to re-focus the Department’s efforts on identifying, investigating, and reporting the misuse or abuse of government travel cards. In light of the Department’s halfhearted response to the previous audit, we request a response on how the Department intends to implement the DoD IG’s recommendations. We will continue to monitor the Department’s progress.

We thank you for your attention to our concerns. We welcome further discussion on this issue.

Hawaii Electric Bills to Increase – Company Cites Albizia Trees and System Upgrades for Increase

Company cites costs of albizia clearing, system upgrades

Hawaii Electric Light proposed the first increase of base rates in nearly six years to help pay for operating costs, including expanded vegetation management focusing on albizia tree removal, as well as system upgrades to increase reliability, improve customer service and integrate more renewable energy.

The request is for a 6.5 percent increase in revenues, or $19.3 million.

Rate reviews are required by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) every three years.

If approved, a typical residential bill for 500 kilowatt hours on Hawaii Island would increase by $9.31 a month to $171.16. The proposed rate change will be reviewed by regulators and would likely not take effect until the summer of 2017 at the earliest.

Thanks to lower fuel prices, bills reflecting the new rates, if approved today, would still be lower than a year ago.

In 2013, with PUC approval, Hawaii Electric Light withdrew its request to increase base rates, leaving in place the same base rates established in 2010.

As part of the current review, Hawaii Electric Light is proposing benchmarks to measure its performance in key areas, such as customer service, reliability and communication for the rooftop solar interconnection process and to link certain revenues to that performance.

$14M spent clearing albizia since 2014

Among the increased operating costs driving the rate change is an extensive vegetation management and tree removal initiative.

albizia

The threat from invasive albizia trees toppling in high winds became clear after Tropical Storm Iselle in 2014 and led the company to triple its annual spending on vegetation management. Since 2014, Hawaii Electric Light has spent $14 million on tree trimming and removal, concentrating on areas where falling albizias threaten utility equipment and highways.

The tree removal program, which is continuing, reduced the impacts of the recent tropical storms Darby and Madeline on roads and power lines, resulting in fewer outages and faster power restoration.

Investments in customer service pay off

Hawaii Electric Light has also spent more than $14 million over the past six years improving customer service systems, developing technical solutions to integrate more private rooftop solar, replacing and upgrading equipment to improve efficiency and reliability and developing detailed plans to achieve the state’s goal of 100 percent renewable energy. The company has absorbed a large portion of these increased costs in the years between rate cases without passing them on to customers.

Investments in more customer service staffing and new technology have resulted in significantly improved service, including reduced call-waiting times. The percentage of customer calls answered within 30 seconds went from 33 percent in 2010 to 93 percent in 2015. And in surveys of customers who called in to stop, start or change electric service in 2015, 94 percent said they were satisfied with the experience.

Renewable energy use grows to 49%, highest in state

Hawaii Electric Light has increased its use of renewable energy from 35 percent in 2010 to 49 percent today, using wind, hydroelectricity, solar and geothermal to replace oil imported to generate electricity. The company reduced its use of oil by 13 percent over the same period. Part of the proposed rate adjustment will help pay for continued improvements to the power grid to help integrate even more renewable resources while improving reliability.

By the end of 2016, Hawaii Electric Light will have made more than $290 million in capital investments over the past six years, including replacing and upgrading transmission lines in West Hawaii; modernizing generation equipment to increase efficiency; increasing grid capacity and system reliability; and adding or replacing lines and transformers as well as more than 4,500 poles for new and expanded service.

Hawaii Electric Light has “decoupled” rates – a regulatory model that periodically adjusts rates to remove the company’s need to increase sales to recover a level of PUC-approved costs for providing service to all customers. The company is required to submit full rate cases every three years for an updated review by the PUC of the current costs of service.

Hawaii DLNR Shares Concerns Over Reports of Sub-Standard Living Conditions on Certain Longline Fishing Vessels

The Department of Land and Natural Resources is aware of media reports regarding living and working conditions on longline fishing vessels that bring catches into Hawai‘i ports. DLNR’S area of responsibility is limited to the ministerial task of issuing commercial fishing licenses to qualified applicants.

dlnr“The DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources (DAR), issues licenses to individual fishermen engaged in commercial catch.  DAR continues to follow long-established statutory and administrative rules which require commercial marine licenses for the taking of marine life and landing it in the state for commercial purposes,” explained DLNR Chair Suzanne Case.  The rules regarding Hawai‘i commercial marine licenses can be found in Hawai‘i Revised Statutes (HRS-189-2 and HRS-189-5).

“We are naturally concerned about press reports pertaining to on-board living conditions, pay disparity and the issue of involuntary labor, and applaud the longline fishing industry for the efforts it is taking to resolve these issues,” Case added.  “Further we are happy to engage with any stakeholders, including lawmakers, commercial fishing interests, and other regulatory agencies, in explaining the current laws and regulations pertaining to licensing of commercial longline fishers and in exploring any legislative or administrative rule changes,” Case said. “While our jurisdiction only extends to the protection of natural resources, we are certainly very concerned about any human rights violations that are reportedly occurring on the longline fishing fleet, and stand ready to assist in any way possible,” she concluded.

Hawaii Department of Transportation Plans Mileage Based User Fee Demonstration Using Federal Grant

Demonstration to focus on operational considerations for transition to a mileage based user fee for highway maintenance

The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) Highways Division, in partnership with the four county governments, is planning to test a statewide mileage based user fee as a potential source of revenue for the State Highway Fund.

Click to read about the demonstration

Click to read about the demonstration

HDOT Highways Division is pursuing a mileage based user fee as a possible replacement to the fuel tax, which currently makes up 33 percent of State Highway Fund revenue. A statewide mileage based user fee demonstration would allow HDOT Highways Division to test operational considerations in the assessment and collection of a sustainable source of funding to maintain and build Hawaii roadways.

Details of the planned test, or demonstration, are available in a grant proposal sent by HDOT Highways Division to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The grant proposal may be downloaded at http://hidot.hawaii.gov/administration/library/publications/

HDOT Highways Division was awarded a $3.988 million grant from FHWA based on the grant proposal. A total of $14.2 million was awarded to eight states on a competitive basis. Hawaii received the largest Surface Transportation Funding Alternatives grant award for this grant cycle. HDOT is working with a consortium of states, such as Oregon, Washington, California, and Colorado, who have or are in the process of performing their demonstration project.

The mileage based user fee demonstration will include outreach and ample opportunities for public feedback. HDOT Highways Division will make updates on the demonstration to Hawaii drivers through mailings, news releases, and through the department website at http://hidot.hawaii.gov/

Lawmaker Ing Calls for AG Opinion on Fishing Vessel Controversy, Seeks Injunction

Representative Kaniela Ing, Chairperson of the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources, and Hawaiian Affairs today sent a letter to Attorney General Douglas Chin requesting an opinion on the alleged unfair labor and business practices conducted outside Piers 17 and 38 at Honolulu Harbor.

Click to read allegations

Click to read allegations

“I am extremely alarmed by recent reports of the gross mistreatment of workers aboard American fishing vessels right here in our Aloha State,” Ing said. “If these investigations hold any validity, we must act swiftly to end any human rights violations occurring on our docks.”

Ing believes that, while the fishing vessels operate in federal waters in accordance to federal law, vessel operators conduct business under a license with the State of Hawaii, therefore subjecting them to State regulation. Ing’s letter asks whether “the (reported) acts…constitute a restraint of trade or other anti-competitive practices prohibited by HRS§480-13.”

Ing explains: “the first step is requesting an Attorney General’s opinion, which he is required to publish under a legislator’s request. An affirmative answer will likely lead to an injunction that will halt any labor or business violations. A non-affirmative answer illuminates the need for bill that clarifies our ‘anti-competitive practices’ statute, which I am committed to pursue”

Ing believes this issue highlights a larger issue of the abuse of undocumented workers.

“Without any legal recourse, millions of undocumented workers suffer through starvation wages and inhumane work environments across America,” Ing said. “It’s an issue too often ignored by mainstream politics. We can all agree that any abuse of any human being has no place in our Aloha State. These investigations reveal why we must act now.”

HELCO President to Speak at West Hawaii Forum – Hawaii’s Energy Future

What’s Ahead for Hawaii’s Energy Future?

Join the discussion at this month’s West Hawaii Forum on September 15th, 2016 from6 PM   –   8 PM at the West Hawaii Civic Center, Council Chambers

Doors will open at 5:30 pm. This program is free and open to the public.

Jay Ignacio, President of Hawai’i Electric Company (HELCO)

Jay Ignacio, President of Hawai’i Electric Company (HELCO)

Don’t miss this important September 15th Forum — energy is everybody’s business.    Join us and hear varying energy visions from top stakeholders in a post-NextEra Hawaii. Learn how Hawai’i could achieve its 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2045 and how those plans may affect you.

What economic and environmental benefits can we expect when Hawaii’s energy needs are met through locally produced clean energy?

Is it possible for all ground and marine transportation to be electrified or powered by renewable hydrogen or renewable biofuels?

Of Hawaii’s top 250 companies, five are solar contractors that generated $140 million in 2015 and are the economic drivers of several thousand local jobs.

What does the future hold for rooftop solar?

Forum Presenters:

  • Jay Ignacio, President of Hawai’i Electric Company (HELCO)
  • Isacc Moriwake, Esq., Earthjustice, Mid-Pacific Office, Hawai’i
  • Marco Mangelsdorf, Hawai’i Island Energy Cooperative (HIEC)

Forum Moderator – Henry Curtis, Illana Media, Hawai’i

In advance of the Forum, ask your questions or concerns for the energy experts at: http://www.westhawaiiforum.org/event/nextera-your-next-utility/     And join the Forum audience on September 15th, as experts explain their visions and plans for the next five years of Hawaii’s 30 year path to a clean and independent energy future.

Parents Urged to Complete Federal Impact Aid Survey Card – Funding Benefits ALL Public Schools Statewide

The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) will be sending a U.S. Department of Education Federal Survey Card home with Hawaii’s public school students for parents to complete beginning Wednesday, September 7, 2016.

Over $40 million in Impact Aid funds was received in SY15-16, benefitting all public schools in Hawaii. Parents are urged to complete and return the surveys beginning Sept. 7th.  Photo Credit: Department of Education

Over $40 million in Impact Aid funds was received in SY15-16, benefiting all public schools in Hawaii. Parents are urged to complete and return the surveys beginning Sept. 7th. Photo Credit: Department of Education

Completed Impact Aid Program survey cards allow HIDOE to qualify for a partial reimbursement for educating federally connected students, such as children whose parents work or live on federal property. The program was created to assist school districts that lose tax revenues (e.g. income, sales and property taxes) due to a federal presence. Received funds go to all local school districts, just like local property taxes, and can be used to hire teachers, purchase textbooks and computers, pay for utilities and more. Parents are strongly urged to complete the surveys and return them to their schools as soon as possible.

“Impact Aid funds are extremely important to support all our public schools statewide and help to improve quality education for our students,” said Kathryn Matayoshi, HIDOE Superintendent. “During the 2015-16 school year, the state accounted for 27,660 federally connected students and received more than $40 million in Impact Aid funding.  We ask all parents for their cooperation to complete these important surveys.”

Completed survey forms will benefit students at all public schools statewide.  Federal reimbursements help to offset such costs as student transportation, school utilities, substitute teachers, portable classrooms and many others necessities.

Without these federal funds, the Hawaii public school system would have $40 million to $50 million less per year to operate with and would need to reduce support for all schools to pay all its expenses. These funds benefit all students at all public schools. Parents are urged to complete and return the surveys.

Every public school has a 100-percent return rate goal and asks that parents complete and return the federal survey next week. Please visit our Impact Aid Program webpage for more information and common questions.

Hawai‘i Awarded Nearly $4 Million in Federal Grants to Study Alternative Transportation Funding Methods

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) awarded $3.998 million in competitive grant funding to the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation (HDOT) as part of the Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives (STSFA) program. The grant will allow the HDOT Highways Division to study and explore alternative methods of funding state and county transportation systems in the future.

Surface Transportation“Trends toward more fuel-efficient, hybrid and electric cars have a significant impact on transportation funding in Hawaiʻi because of our current reliance on the gas tax as a transportation funding mechanism,” said Gov. David Ige. “While I encourage the move away from fossil fuels as part of our commitment to a clean energy future, the resulting lower consumption reduces the funds available for highways projects. Moving forward, we need to explore new ways to fund our state highway system. We are thankful for FHWA’s commitment to help Hawaiʻi confront this challenge.”

HDOT Highways Division plans to use the $3.998 million grant to study alternatives to the gas tax by working with county and state officials and stakeholders to design new systems to obtain highways funding. These systems will then be tested with Hawaiʻi residents and visitors. One example of an alternative funding mechanism is road maintenance fees based on the number of miles driven, similar to how electric or water utilities are metered.

“Our goal is to design a system for highways funding that is fair, transparent, and easy to use for the public,” said Ford Fuchigami, director, Hawai‘i Department of Transportation. “We will continue to work toward creating a sustainable funding source for the many projects we have, to address the care and maintenance of Hawaiʻi roads.”

Dwindling gas tax revenues is a national problem. Congress created the grant program so that states can study alternatives that will help the federal government restore solvency to the Federal Highway Trust Fund. For Federal Fiscal Year 2016, a total of $15 million in STSFA funds were granted to states on a competitive basis.

International Market Place Celebrates Grand Opening Today in Waikiki

Thousands gathered today to take part in the grand opening of the fully reimagined International Market Place in Waikīkī. The 345,000-square-foot, open-air shopping center offers Hawai‘i’s first Saks Fifth Avenue as well as a world-class lineup of restaurants and retailers – nearly 50 percent of which will be unique to O’ahu.

The new International Market Place reopened in Waikiki today.

The new International Market Place reopened in Waikiki today.

“From dining under the sun and stars on the spectacular Grand Lānai to the excellent retail and entertainment, International Market Place will once again serve as a special gathering place for residents and tourists in the heart of Waikīkī,” said Robert S. Taubman, chairman, president and CEO of Taubman Centers, Inc. “We believe it will become a premiere destination on the island, and one of the best assets in our portfolio.”

Situated between the bustling Kalākaua and Kūhiō Avenues, International Market Place will offer approximately 90 of today’s most sought-after retailers and ten world-class restaurants. The center’s exceptional design incorporates a “cultural journey” of the land and its people, water features, indigenous landscaping and the historic 160-year-old banyan tree.

“International Market Place offers a unique Hawaiian sense of place that honors the past, perpetuates Queen Emma’s legacy and looks to the future,” said Cordell Lietz, president, CoastWood Capital Group. “It has been an honor to work with Taubman and Queen Emma Land Company to bring to fruition our shared vision for the important historic site.”

“We are excited for this property’s future as it establishes its own reputation and legacy as a new iconic landmark and gathering place,” said Eric Martinson, president of Queen Emma Land Company, the owners of the land on which International Market Place sits.

The International Market Place retail and restaurant lineup includes the following. A single asterisk (*) before the name indicates brands that are unique to the island.

STORES:
*45rpm
ABC Stores
*Abeo
Abercrombie & Fitch
Aesop
Anthropologie
Banana Republic
*BCBG MAX AZRIA
Brunello Cucinelli
*Capital Teas
*Catimini
Chapel Hats
*Christian Louboutin
Clarks
Crazy Shirts
*Fabletics
Flip Flop Shops
FootAction USA
Fossil
*Free People
GameStop
GNC Live Well
Godiva Belgium 1926
Greenroom Hawaii
*Hanna Andersson
*Hervé Léger
Hilton Grand Vacations (kiosk)
Hollister
Honolulu Cookie Co.
*Intermix
Island Art & Sole
*Jo Malone
*Kona Coffee Purveyors
*Kula & Ko
Laline
Lani Beach by Mireille
L’Occitane en Provence
LUSH Fresh Handmade Cosmetics
MAC
Magnolia Ice Cream & Treats
Maui Divers Jewelry
Michael Kors
*Mitsuwa Marketplace
*Oliver Peoples
*Ondademar
Pacific Harley-Davidson
Pandora
Papyrus
*Penhaligon’s
*Robin’s Jean
*Saks Fifth Avenue
Sand People
*Seafolly Australia
*Shinola
Shoe Palace
*Stuart Weitzman
*Sugarfina
Sunglass Hut
Swarovski
Tabora Gallery
Tesla
*Trina Turk
Vera Bradley
Vilebrequin
*YOGASMOGA

RESTAURANTS ON THE GRAND LĀNAI (THIRD LEVEL):
*Baku
*Eating House 1849 by Roy Yamaguchi
*Flour & Barley – Brick Oven Pizza
Goma Tei Ramen
*Herringbone
*Kona Grill
*STRIPSTEAK
*Yauatcha

RESTAURANT ON THE FIRST LEVEL:
*The STREET, A Michael Mina Social House

In addition to the stellar shopping and dining, guests can enjoy a free show each evening called “O Nā Lani Sunset Stories” that kicks off with a ceremonial lighting of the Lamakū Torch Tower that sits proudly on Kalākaua Ave. Honoring the beloved Queen Emma, the nightly show highlights stories, traditions and culture of this special gathering place.

Guests to International Market Place may take advantage of many amenities, including a 700-space parking garage, valet parking, electric vehicle charging stations, free Wi-Fi and much more.

International Market Place was developed through a partnership between Taubman and CoastWood Capital Group in conjunction with Queen Emma Land Company. Revenues will directly support The Queen’s Medical Center, the state’s largest private, nonprofit hospital and its mission of providing quality health care to all of Hawai‘i’s people.

For more information on the shopping, dining and entertainment destination, please visit ShopInternationalMarketPlace.com, Instagram: @intlmktplace and in Japanese @intlmktplacejp; Facebook: facebook.com/IntlMktPlace and in Japanese at facebook.com/IntlMktPlaceJP.

Matson to Build Two New Con-Ro Ships For Hawaii Service

Matson, Inc. today announced that its subsidiary, Matson Navigation Company, Inc., a leading U.S. carrier in the Pacific, has signed a contract with General Dynamics NASSCO, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics, to build two new combination container and roll-on/roll-off (“Con-Ro”) vessels for its Hawaii fleet at a contract price of $511 million for both vessels with deliveries scheduled for the end of 2019 and mid-year 2020.

Artist rendering of Matson Kanaloa Class vessel. Courtesy General Dynamics NASSCO

Artist rendering of Matson Kanaloa Class vessel. Courtesy General Dynamics NASSCO

Matson is calling these vessels the Kanaloa Class in honor of the ocean deity revered in the native Hawaiian culture and will name each of the new vessels after predecessor ships from its 134-year history.  The first vessel will be named Lurline, the sixth Matson vessel to carry that name, while the second vessel will be its fifth named Matsonia.

The Kanaloa Class vessels will be built on a 3,500 TEU vessel platform, which is 265 meters long, 34.9 meters wide (beam), with a deep draft of 11.5 meters and enclosed garage space for up to 800 vehicles.  In addition, the new vessels will have state-of-the-art green technology features, including a fuel efficient hull design, environmentally safe double hull fuel tanks, fresh water ballast systems and dual-fuel engines, meaning that they will be able to operate at speeds up to 23 knots on either conventional fuel oils or liquefied natural gas (“LNG”) with some adaptation for LNG.  These advancements are important to Hawaii as a means to reduce fuel consumption, and will result in significant emissions reductions over time.

The two Kanaloa Class ships will replace three diesel powered vessels in active service, which will be moved to reserve status.  With delivery of the Kanaloa Class ships, along with its two new Aloha Class ships, Matson will have completed the renewal of its Hawaii fleet, allowing it to retire its seven older steamship vessels that will no longer comply with environmental regulations in 2020 without substantial modification.

The larger capacity of the Aloha Class and Kanaloa Class vessels will allow Matson to return to an optimal nine-ship fleet deployment in Hawaii, increasing efficiency and lowering operating costs.  The Kanaloa Class vessels are expected to be more fuel efficient than the ships they will replace and will add rolling stock carrying capacity while lowering operating, repair and maintenance, and dry-docking costs.

“This vessel order underscores Matson’s long-standing commitment to serve Hawaii with the largest, most reliable, efficient and environmentally friendly fleet for the long-term,” said Matt Cox, president and CEO.  “The Kanaloa Class ships will be built specifically to meet Hawaii’s freight demands while reducing our environmental impact and improving our efficiency for decades to come.”

Matson expects to finance the Kanaloa Class vessels primarily through cash flows from operations, borrowing available under the Company’s unsecured revolving credit facility and additional debt financings, which could include U.S. Government guaranteed vessel finance bonds (Title XI).

Hawaii TSA Worker/Department of Human Services Worker Busted for “Double Dipping”

Attorney General Doug Chin announced that Ms. Roselani Wise was sentenced last month after pleading no contest to theft in the second degree for receiving unearned compensation from the State of Hawaii, Department of Human Services (DHS) from 2008 through 2012. During that four year period, Wise was employed as an Investigator for DHS. An investigation revealed, however, that while Wise was supposed to be working at her job at DHS, she was simultaneously working for – and being paid by – the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at the Lihue Airport.

Roselani Wise

Attorney General Doug Chin said, “Public employees can hold outside employment as long as it is not legally prohibited. In this case, however, Ms. Wise claimed to be working for DHS during the same exact time she was actually working for TSA. That is theft of state money and that is why she was prosecuted.”

Due in part to her lack of prior criminal history, Wise was granted a deferred acceptance of no contest plea by Judge Randal Valenciano on July 21, 2016. The terms of Wise’s sentencing include five (5) years of probation, restitution to the State of Hawaii in the amount of nine-thousand seven-hundred-one dollars and thirty-two cents ($9,701.32), and 200 hours of community service. Wise is also required to pay eight-hundred ninety-five dollars ($895) to the Crime Victim Compensation Commission.

Theft in the second degree, a violation of section 708-831, Hawaii Revised Statutes is a class C felony.

Hawaii is 2016’s Best State for Women’s Equality

With Women’s Equality Day just three days away and the U.S. in 28th position on the Global Gender Gap Index — falling eight places since 2014 — the personal-finance website WalletHub conducted an in-depth analysis of 2016’s Best & Worst States for Women’s Equality.
equalityIn order to determine the most gender-egalitarian states, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states across 15 key metrics. Our data set ranges from the gap between female and male executives to the disparity between women’s and men’s unemployment rates.

Women’s Equality in Hawaii (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 1st – Earnings Disparity
  • 7th – Executive Positions Disparity
  • 5th – Work Hours Disparity
  • 1st – Educational Attainment Disparity (Among Bachelor’s Degree Holders)
  • 5th – Minimum-Wage Workers Disparity
  • 1st – Unemployment Rate Disparity
  • 8th – Entrepreneurship Rate Disparity
  • 1st – Political Representation Disparity

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/best-and-worst-states-for-women-equality/5835/

Hawaii State Highway Bonds Sale Secures $247 Million, Saves State More Than $22 Million

On Aug. 10, 2016, the State of Hawai‘i successfully sold $204.485 million in Highway Revenue Bonds at the lowest interest rate in the history of the state’s Highway Revenue Bond Program. The sale raised $247.581 million.

Highways DivisionApproximately $120 million of the bond sale proceeds will be used to fund various highway projects throughout the state and about $127 million of the proceeds will be used to refinance existing state bonds. The refinancing will reduce debt service payments and save more than $22 million in interest costs.

“This financing is a tremendous success for the state, enabling continued investment in our infrastructure at a very affordable borrowing cost,” said Gov. David Ige. The low interest rates achieved demonstrate bond investors’ confidence in Hawai‘i’s economic strength and its continued practice of sound fiscal management. This is the result of years of discipline and conservative fiscal management.”

Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Service and Fitch Ratings affirmed the state’s strong bond ratings of “Aa2”, “AA+” and “AA,” respectively. Each rating agency also attached “stable” outlooks on their ratings, indicating secure future economic and financial trends for Hawai‘i. Rating agencies cited the stability and diversity of revenue streams that are pledged as security for the bonds, as one of the key strengths of the credit.  Other strengths cited include strong legal provisions, high debt service coverage, and stable revenue trends, particularly in those sectors that are less reliant on economic activity.

The marketing plan for the bonds included investor presentations, both in-person in Hawai‘i and on the mainland, as well as internet-based presentations and conference calls. The extended marketing generated strong demand for the bonds from institutional investors.

There was very strong demand for the bonds by both Hawai‘i and national investors. Orders for the bonds amounted to 4.5 times the amount available for sale. The strong demand resulted in net interest rates on the bonds that ranged from 0.50 to 2.50 percent, with the average net interest rate less than 2.25 percent. This is the lowest rate the state has achieved since starting the Highway Revenue Bond Program in 1993.

“The success of the recent bond sale and the low interest rate on the offering is due in no small part to the hard work of the Highways Division in adhering to its sound fiscal and debt management policies,” said Ford Fuchigami, director, Hawai‘i  Department of Transportation. “We are extremely pleased with the demand for the bonds and the needed infusion of capital the Highways Division will receive from the sale.”

The bonds were sold by a financing team led by Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, serving as book-running senior manager and Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo Securities, serving as co-senior managers.

Canadian Firm Awarded $10 Million for Design and Production Readiness Phases of TMT Enclosure

Empire Industries Ltd. announced that its Dynamic Structures division has been awarded a contract from Canadian Commercial Corporation for the final design and production readiness phases of the Thirty Meter Telescope enclosure.  The contract is valued at approximately $10 million, and is expected to be completed over the next 20 months.

TMT laserThe Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will be the most advanced and powerful optical telescope on Earth. When completed, TMT will enable astronomers to study objects in our own solar system and stars throughout our Milky Way and its neighboring galaxies, and forming galaxies at the very edge of the observable Universe.  For more information about TMT, go to www.tmt.org.

The TMT project is being undertaken by a consortium of universities, institutions and governments from the United States, Canada, Japan, China, and India.  The TMT enclosure is one of several key deliverables that Canada will be contributing to the TMT partnership under which Canada will provide up to $243.5 million over 10 years to support Canada’s participation in TMT.

Dynamic Structures has developed an innovative calotte shape for the TMT enclosure.  The design significantly reduces the size and improves the speed of the enclosure, to effectively shield the telescope and instruments from temperature variations, unbalanced wind forces, snow and ice.  The enclosure will rotate and track the telescope’s field of view. When completed, the enclosure will be 55 meters high and be assembled from over hundreds of thousands of parts.

The enclosure design is expected to be executed between 2016 and Q1 2018. Subsequent phases of the Canadian enclosure project, including fabrication, shipping the enclosure to the project site, supervision of the enclosure’s installation, and commissioning of the structure, have not yet been awarded.

“It is an honor to be selected to design one of the most sophisticated moving structures on the planet, said Guy Nelson, Chief Executive Officer of Empire Industries Ltd.  “Dynamic Structures has been actively working on TMT since it was first conceived over ten years ago.  We are looking forward to seeing it through to completion.”

Hawaii Governor Extends Emergency Homeless Proclamation

Gov. David Y. Ige today signed a sixth supplemental proclamation on homelessness, which will remain in effect until Oct. 19. The supplemental proclamation provides 60 additional days in which to further expand the state’s collaborative efforts to house the most visible and chronic homeless individuals.  In the past year, the proclamations have helped more than 4,800 people — representing 1,353 families — move out of homelessness or prevent it altogether.

Click tor read

Click tor read

“The tide is turning,” said the Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness Scott Morishige.  “Collectively, our state is moving forward with a unified strategy that addresses three levers of change: affordable housing, health & human services and public safety. All stakeholders are working together in unison across multiple sectors. This coordinated and persistent approach is moving people off the streets,” he said.

Lever One: Affordable Housing

A major priority for the Ige Administration is to increase affordable housing. The proclamations allowed for emergency housing of approximately 300 homeless individuals who were in jeopardy of being displaced after federal budget cuts to seven local organizations.

impact1Additionally, the proclamations reduced the development time of nine different joint projects with the counties by up to a year per project. These housing projects are specifically designed for homeless individuals and families, including the Family Assessment Center in Kaka`ako Makai, which will open in September and house 240 people per year.  Today’s supplemental proclamation adds two additional City & County of Honolulu long-term housing projects, bringing the total to 11.

Lever Two: Health & Human Services

The proclamations allowed faster distribution of financial resources for permanent housing and to prevent homelessness.  Between August 2015 and July 2016, there was a 51 percent increase in the number of individuals and families moving into housing or preserving housing, as compared to the prior 12-month period.   This includes a 55 percent increase on O‘ahu and a 47 percent increase on the neighbor islands.  The following programs received increased funding:

  • The State Homeless Emergency Grant (SHEG) provides one-time assistance for housing, food, medical and other types of expenses arising from emergency needs.
  • Housing Placement Program (HPP) provides first month’s rent or security deposit, as well as temporary case management, for homeless families with minor children.
  • Coordinated Statewide Homeless Initiative (CSHI) provides homelessness prevention and Rapid Re-Housing statewide, and increases coordination for the statewide telephone navigation service (2-1-1) for homeless individuals.

impact2

Lever Three: Public Safety

By enabling the quick execution of contracts and allocation of dedicated resources, the emergency proclamations supported the reduction in the number of unsheltered persons in the Kaka`ako Makai area.  The population decreased from a high of approximately 300 unsheltered persons in August 2015 to approximately 50 unsheltered persons in August 2016.

Did You Know… 2015 State of Hawaii Data Book Released

The Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) released the “2015 State of Hawaii Data Book” today. The resource is available on the DBEDT website at dbedt.hawaii.gov/economic/databook/ and may be downloaded in whole or in part as either PDF or Excel files.

2015 Data BookThe state’s Data Book is the most comprehensive statistical book about Hawaii in a single compilation. With more than 800 data tables, it covers a broad range of statistical information in areas such as population, education, labor, energy, business enterprises, government, tourism and transportation.

“The state’s Data Book provides comprehensive information from all sources, both public and private,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria.  “It’s the most popular product on the DBEDT website and has been consistently produced for 47 years.”

“We try to add more data series to the Data Book to accommodate a wide range of data needs,” said Chief State Economist, Dr. Eugene Tian.  “Among the new data series in this Data Book are the Hawaii homes purchased by origin of buyers.”

Some of the interesting data in this newest edition show that:

  • About 60 percent of the 58,144 domestic in-migrants to Hawaii in 2014 were between the ages of 20 to 44 years old. (Table 1.65)
  • A majority of marriages (55 percent) were interracial in 2014 in situations where at least one partner was a Hawaii resident. (Table 2.44)
  • The tuition per semester for a full-time resident undergraduate student at University of Hawaii at Manoa in 2015 was $5,172, or 5 percent higher compared to previous year. (Table 3.25)
  • Hawaii State Library system circulated 475,652 copies of electronic media up 33.6 percent compared to previous year and an increase of 644 percent compared to five years ago. (Table 3.28)
  • In 2015, there were 4,068 people in state adult and juvenile correctional facilities which was a 4 percent increase from the year before. (Table 4.20)
  • There are 15 dams throughout the state that have a Maximum storage of 600 acre-ft. or more, 13 out of 15 of those dams are on either Oahu or Kauai. (Table 5.23)
  • In 2015 Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide measurements at Mauna Loa exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time since measurements have been taken starting in 1958. (Table 5.44)
  • U.S. Department of Defense procurement prime contracts awarded with Hawaii as the “place of performance” ranged from $1.7 billion to $2.8 billion over FY 2011 to FY 2015.  Over this period the value of prime contracts awarded to small business ranged from 38.1 percent to 50.2 percent of the total.  An average 75 percent of the small business contracts went to minority businesses over the period. (Table 10.25)
  • As of Sept. 30, 2015 there were 17,600 military retirees in Hawaii, of which almost half (46.3 percent) were over 65 years old.  Of the military retirees, 37.8 percent retired from the Army; 28.1 percent Navy; 6.3 percent Marines, and 27.8 percent Air Force. (Table 10.35)
  • In 2016 there were 1,047 licensed child care centers in the state, double the number of centers in 2004 when there were 523. (Table 11.22)
  • The occupation with greatest employment in Hawaii in 2015 was “Retail salesperson” with 24,770 employment and $11.46 average hourly salary. The next highest occupation was “Waiters and waitresses” with 15,299 employment, followed by cashiers (14,790 employment) and general office clerks (13,660 employment). (Table 12.36)
  • According to the Regional Price Parities from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis the “All Items” price level in Hawaii was 16.8 percent higher than the overall national price level in 2014.  “Goods” component was 8.9 percent higher while “Services: rents” component was 58.4 percent higher than the national average in the year. (Table 14.02)
  • The three banks in Hawaii with assets of more than $1 billion in 2015 employed more than 5,000 full-time equivalent employees. (Table 15.05)
  • There were 3,324 fires in 2015 resulting in 5 deaths and losses of more than $23 million. (Table 15.14)
  • In Hawaii, 85.6 percent of the population had access to a computer with an internet subscription in 2014.  Comparing by age group, persons under 18 years of age had the highest percentage at 90.2 percent, whereas persons 18 to 64 had 87.4 percent and persons 65 years and older had 72.3 percent. (Table 16.12)
  • The average electricity price for residential customers was 30 cents per kWh in 2015, 7 cents per kWh or 19 percent decrease from the previous year. (Table 17.09)
  • A majority of the more than 19,000 home purchases in 2015 were by local buyers (78 percent) with an average sales price of $546,146; followed by mainland buyers (19 percent) with an average sales price of $751,210; and lastly foreign buyers (3 percent) with an average sales price of $783,774.  (Table 21.38)
  • Duty free store revenue in 2015 was $135.6 million, which was a decrease of 18.5 percent compared to 2014. (Table 23.12)
  • Another record year in the State of Hawaii for hotel occupancy and room rates in 2015 as the average hotel occupancy reached 78.8 percent, 1.8 percentage point increase, and the average daily room rate reached $243.93, $9.08 or 3.9 percent increase compared to the previous year. (Table 23.39)
  • Foreign Agricultural Exports, on a farm receipts-basis, have grown from $151.5 million in 2000 to $400.4 million in 2014. Of that total about 90 percent on average has been of plants products, such as fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, coffee, and horticulture products. (Table 24.11)

DBEDT’s Research and Economic Analysis Division (READ) also maintains the historical series of tables and updates the data continuously throughout the year.

The historical series and the update can also be found on the DBEDT website at dbedt.hawaii.gov/economic/databook/.

NEHLA and County of Hawaii Host Energy Storage Conference

The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) announced today that it is partnering with the County of Hawaii to host a conference on energy storage trends and opportunities in Kailua-Kona on Sept. 12 and 13.

The NEHLA Plant from above

The NEHLA Plant from above

”As the state works to reach its 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2045, energy storage will be necessary to address increasing amounts of variable resources brought into the grid,” said DBEDT Director Luis P. Salaveria. “This conference will bring together experts from U.S. National Laboratories, academia, government and industry to present energy storage technologies and applications and consider opportunities and challenges.”

“We are excited about the caliber of the speakers that will be presenting,” said Gregory Barbour, NELHA’s executive director. “This conference brings together experienced scientists, engineers, and policymakers to discuss energy storage and microgrid initiatives, issues and projects. This is an area that is not only at the forefront of renewable energy but also critical to widespread implementation of intermittent renewable technologies such as solar and wind technologies.”

The conference, which is supported in part by the County of Hawaii, includes presentations and panel discussions as well as visits to site demonstrations. It aims to have the latest information presented by leaders in energy storage technology, particularly on the economics of energy storage. Meeting participants will also discuss opportunities as well as regulatory and policy issues.

“We are pleased to partner with NELHA on this conference in an effort to bring leaders in the field of energy storage to the Island of Hawaii to share their insight and explore opportunities” stated Mayor Billy Kenoi. “Hawaii Island is already generating 50 percent renewable energy and grid-scale energy storage is certainly part of the equation for building towards our 100 percent goal”.

Attendance to the conference is open to the public.

Registration information is located at: nelhaenergystorage2016.hawaii-conference.com/.

Governor Ige Appoints Damien Elefante as Deputy Director of the Department of Taxation

Gov. David Ige announced the appointment of Damien Elefante to be the deputy director of the Department of Taxation (DoTax). Elefante’s appointment follows the departure of Joe Kim, who moved to the private sector in July.

Damien Elefante

Damien Elefante

Following graduation from Kailua High School, Elefante earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He went on to receive a law degree from Syracuse University College of Law.

Elefante brings to the position more than a decade of experience working on tax issues for the state. Most recently he served as the compliance coordinator in the department of taxation. Prior to that he was the deputy attorney general who represented the state’s interest in contested tax-related cases. Involved in litigating and appearing before Federal and State Courts in Hawai‘i, he collected over $50 million for the benefit of the state. Prior to joining the state, Elefante worked at Hisaka Stone Goto Yoshida Cosgrove & Ching, and served as a law clerk for Chief Judge James S. Burns at the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

“Damien will be a valuable part of the team implementing the Tax System Modernization program, which will transform the operations of the department. He understands the need to maintain the department’s consistent and fair practices on behalf of all taxpayers in the state,” said Gov. Ige.

“I am honored to serve as the deputy director and grateful to Gov. Ige for giving me the opportunity to be part of his administration. I am eager to carry out his mission for the Tax Department to ‘modernize our tax system, increase efficiency for taxpayers and hold accountable those who do not pay their taxes.’ I look forward to working with the legislature and the community,” Elefante said.

Mr. Elefante’s appointment is subject to Senate approval.