NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric to Hold Informational Meetings Across State

NextEra Energy, Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Company, Inc., Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc. and Maui Electric Company Limited (collectively referred to as Hawaiian Electric), today announced that the companies will be hosting a series of 13 open house informational meetings across Hawaii to introduce residents to NextEra Energy and the benefits of the companies’ pending merger as well as to provide members of the public with the opportunity to provide input directly to company officials.

NextEra Logo

The open houses will take place on Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui, Molokai and Lanai from April 7 to April 16.

“Since we announced our merger late last year, we’ve been gratified at the reception we’ve received as well as the high level of interest in this important topic for Hawaii,” said Eric Gleason, president of NextEra Energy Hawaii, LLC. “NextEra Energy shares Hawaiian Electric’s vision of increasing renewable energy, modernizing its grid, reducing Hawaii’s dependence on imported oil, integrating more rooftop solar energy and, importantly, lowering customer bills. We recognize that addressing Hawaii’s energy challenges requires Hawaii-specific energy solutions, and that is why we look forward to meeting with and listening to residents across Hawaii. The meetings will provide us with the opportunity to receive valuable feedback while allowing residents to learn more about NextEra Energy and the significant near- and long-term benefits this merger will deliver to Hawaiian Electric customers and the state of Hawaii.”

“In selecting NextEra Energy as our partner, we will join a company that shares our community and environmental values, has a proven track record of lowering electric bills, is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun, and is committed to rooftop solar in Hawaii,” said Alan Oshima, Hawaiian Electric’s president and chief executive officer. “We can’t imagine a better match to help us accelerate the clean energy transformation we all want for Hawaii. We hope our customers will take the opportunity to meet members of the NextEra Energy team and learn firsthand why NextEra Energy is the right partner to help us achieve a cleaner and more affordable energy future for Hawaii.”

About the Open House Meetings

Each open house meeting will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time. Senior leaders and other employees from NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric will be available to discuss NextEra Energy’s track record of increasing renewable energy, lowering customer bills, creating innovative solutions for modernizing the grid, and supporting local communities, as well as all the expected benefits from the proposed merger with Hawaiian Electric.

The dates and locations for the meetings are as follows:

Maui County

April 7

  • Central Maui: Maui Electric Auditorium
  • South Maui: Kihei Community Center

April 8

  • West Maui: Lahaina Civic Center
  • Lanai: Lanai Community Center

April 9

  • Molokai: Kaunakakai Elementary School Cafeteria

Hawaii Island

April 13

  • Hilo, Hawaii: Hilo High School Cafeteria
  • Puna, Hawaii: Pahoa High School Cafeteria

April 14

  • West Hawaii: Kealakehe High School Cafeteria
  • Waimea, Hawaii: HPA Village Campus Dining Hall

Oahu

April 15

  • West Oahu: Kapolei High School Cafeteria
  • Leeward Oahu: Pearl City High School Cafeteria

April 16

  • Honolulu: Ward Warehouse, Kakaako Conference Room
  • Windward Oahu: Windward Community College, Hale Akoakoa

Website

To learn more about the benefits of the transaction, please visit www.forhawaiisfuture.com.

Hawaii Moon RIDERS Honored at Capital

The House of Representatives today recognized the Iolani School and Kealakehe High School robotics team, known as the Moon RIDERS, for their work on the electrodynamic dust shield lunar project and their partnerships with PISCES, NASA, and Google Lunar Xprize. 

PISCES Executive Director Rob Kelso, Moon RIDERS, and members of the Hawaii House of Representatives.

PISCES Executive Director Rob Kelso, Moon RIDERS, and members of the Hawaii House of Representatives.

In February, the group was selected to take part in an experiment involving electrodynamic dust shield technology that will be conducted on the surface of the moon by the end of 2016. 

Kealakehe teacher Justin Brown, Kealakehe student Moon RIDERS, and Reps. Nicole Lowen and Mark Nakashima.

Kealakehe teacher Justin Brown, Kealakehe student Moon RIDERS, and Reps. Nicole Lowen and Mark Nakashima.

The selected Hawaii students will be mentored by NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.  The project came about through an agreement with PISCES and NASA to work on a Hawaii high school STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) project.

Hawaii Police Kill 5 Unarmed Hawaii Residents in 8 Months – Group Calls for Justice for Sheldon Haleck

Today we say NO MORE!   World Can’t Wait-Hawai`i calls on the people of Hawai`i to demand the truth about the circumstances surrounding the death of Sheldon Haleck.

JusticeWe challenge the media to vigorously investigate the actions of the HPD and to refuse to parrot police reports and attempts to vilify victims of police brutality and murder.

We challenge the people of Hawaii to stand with the victims of police brutality and create an atmosphere where families can talk openly about their loved ones, and where witnesses of police brutality can step forward to tell the truth.

justice2In the wake of the police murders of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, people across the U.S. righteously stood up against police murder and brutality, the targeting of Black and Brown people, and the lack of prosecution of the police for their crimes.

People of different races and nationalities, and from all walks of life, joined together to say, “We  Can’t Breathe,” in solidarity with those being victimized. Through many different forms of protest and resistance, the entire society was finally forced to confront this burning injustice.  Meanwhile, murder by police continues unchecked.

justice3In the last 8 months HPD has killed at least 5 unarmed Hawai`i residents.  Hawai`i has one of the highest rates of police murder and brutality in the U.S.

The epidemic of police murder and brutality must end!   NOW!

On April 14 World Can’t Wait-Hawai`i will be joining with people across the U.S. calling for a Shut Down to Stop Murder (#ShutDownA14).  Go to www.stopmassincarceration.net to connect with the growing movement against police murder, brutality and mass incarceration!”

Commentary:

15 people responded to our Call to a Vigil/Signholding in front of Iolani Palace to
Demand Justice for Sheldon Haleck.  A small memorial was set up and our signs lined King Street during rush hour.

Many commuters honked their horns; a few stopped their cars to ask what had happened; several pedestrians stopped to talk, thank us, or tell about their own experiences with police brutality.

We also heard some potentially important new information.  According to someone who was within several hundred yards of the killing but did not personally see Sheldon get tased,, Sheldon was “dragged from the street” rather than “escorted,” as the HPD report claimed, and  several people he had spoken with overheard conversations between the police immediately after Sheldon was tased saying they were “worried that the woman cop who tased Sheldon had tased him too long.”   At this point facts are still sketchy, but while we held signs we couldn’t help but note that there were a number of surveillance cameras in the vicinity that might hold important information.

A Press Release was sent to members of Hawai`i’s media; only Channel 9 came out.  The photographer took a lot of pictures, but we haven’t seen any coverage.

World Can’t Wait Hawaii

 

Big Island Legislators Secure Over $200 Million in Capital Improvement Funding for Island Projects

Big Island legislators secured over $200 million in Capital Improvement Project (CIP) funding for various projects across the island in the House proposed budget.

capital

The proposed budget includes funding for various highway improvements, monies for Big Island schools, plans for a new hospital in Kona, and continued financial support to complete the Kona Judiciary Complex.

Notable CIP funding highlights for Hawaii County include:

  • $55 million in continued funding for the design and construction of a Judiciary Complex in Kona
  • $1.2 million for the plans and design of a new hospital in Kona
  • $2.35 million for the design and construction of a Kamuela post-harvest facility and vacuum cooling plant
  • $330,000 for improvements to the research campus in the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park
  • $30.212 for the construction of a new combined support maintenance shop complex for Hawaii Army National Guard at the Keaukaha military reservation
  • $1.675 million for Youth Challenge Academy renovations and improvements at Keaukaha military reservation
  • $2 million for the design of Building A phase 1 renovations at Hilo Intermediate School
  • $1 million for the construction of bleachers at Honokaa High School
  • $230,000 for the construction of drainage improvements and a raised covered walkway at Mountain View Elementary School
  • $450,000 for a new baseball batting cage at Waiakea High School
  • $1.58 million for the design of a new classroom building at Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School
  • $300,000 for parking improvements at Kealakehe Elementary School
  • $8.5 million for the land acquisition, design, construction and equipment for a multi-purpose workforce development processing facility
  • $1 million for the design and construction for Pu’u Wa’awa’a structure improvements and dam compliance
  • $400,000 for the plans and design for improvements at the North Kawaihae small boat harbor
  • $600,000 for the land acquisition and design for a community center in Waiakea Uka
  • $200,000 for building renovations and improvements at the Paauilo slaughterhouse plant
  • $3.5 million for airfield improvements at Hilo International Airport
  • $61 million for the design and construction of a new airport rescue firefighters regional training facility at the Kona International Airport at Keahole
  • $1.425 million for physical modifications to improve navigational safety and operational efficiencies at Hilo Harbor
  • $3.6 million for Kohala Mountain Road drainage improvements by mile post 10.60
  • $8 million for the rehabilitation of Ninole Bridge along Mamalahoa Highway (route 11)
  • $15 million for repair and maintenance of feeder roads and alternate routes for Highway 130
  • $660,000 for land acquisition to extend the Daniel K. Inouye Highway from the Hilo terminus to the Queen Kaahumanu Highway
  • $1.5 million for the construction of portable trailers at Hawaii Community College
  • $350,000 to renovate the tennis court at Honokaa High and Intermediate School
  • $2.46 million lump sum for renovations at Hilo High School
  • $1.23 million lump sum for renovations at Konawaena Middle School
  • $780,000 lump sum for renovations at Kohala High
  • $4.99 million for photovoltaic projects for East Hawaii HHSC region
  • $3.492 million total for renovations at Kona Community Hospital
  • $750,000 for an 80 bed intake unit at Hawaii Community Correctional Center to address overcrowding

 

Commentary – Hawaii Department of Transportation Airports Division Desecrates Memorial

Over the last year, Skydive Hawaii has won a formal Part 16 FAA Hearing regarding economic discrimination and exclusivity of use at Hana Airport – violations of FAA AIF Grant Assurances 22 and 23. Earlier this year, in the Supreme Court of Hawaii, we provided oral arguments on the limitations of the ability of the Director of Transportation to make rules at airports owned by the United States of America (Dillingham Airfield).

In 2005, the State of Hawaii DOT-A was found moving sand containing human bones to local North Shore resident Thomas Shirai’s property. At that time the DOT-A blamed the contractor, Stay and Sons for the problem.

Click to enlarge

The present barrier (click to enlarge)

On March 19, 2015, Mr. Curtis Lau and another maintenance worker at Dillingham Airfield, under the direct supervision of Mike Navares, erected a second rope barrier between the skydive memorial at Dillingham Airfield and Skydive Hawaii. Prior to commencing with the project, Frank Hinshaw, President at Skydive Hawaii explained to Mr. Lau and his worker that putting a barrier up would only serve to cause outrage in the skydiver community.

An aircraft crash into Pearl Harbor on December 5, 1981 took the lives of 11 skydivers. In their memory a memorial was established at their home, Dillingham Airfield. The memorial is simple, a large rock with a bronze plaque and 11 milo trees in a circular arrangement symbolizing the “round or star” skydiving formation.

Skydiving Memorial

At the time the State DOT-A said that the area would not be rented or leased under revocable permit. Over the years, the skydiving community has lost more friends, but this memorial has served as a place of all their remembrances. The staff of Skydive Hawaii has maintained the memorial, cutting the grass, raking the leaves, and keeping the trees trimmed for the last 25 years and at no time was access to anyone restricted in any manner.

Friday, January 30, Mike Navares, verbally notified this company that beginning February 1 2015 the State had leased the skydiver memorial to Pacific Skydiving, a commercial company. The State and Pacific skydiving understood that the area was a skydive memorial and that this would be considered as an act of disrespect.

Desecration 2

Barrier in early February

A Pacific Skydiving business sign was moved onto the “memorial property.”A first rope barrier was put up and rocks moved in the front of the memorial to prevent access. Outraged skydivers removed the first rope barrier.

While it appears to us that the State DOT-A is using the desecration of the skydiver memorial as retribution to our FAA hearing win and likely future victory at the Hawaii Supreme Court, the memorial held sacred by skydivers and representing the memories of those who have preceded us on that eternal flight should be held above commercialization and willful desecration by our State government.

Frank Hinshaw,
Skydive Hawaii

Skydivers

2011 group of friends at the memorial – 30th anniversary of the plane crash.

Hawaii Principal Survey Results – Only One in Nine Principals Has Confidence in Board of Education

The Hawaii Education Institute (EIH), an independent think tank, has released the results of its 2015 Public School Principals Survey.

Education Institute

Methodology.  To participate in this on-line survey, principals were required to identify themselves to EIH.  This ensured that only principals completed the survey, and that no one principal completed the survey more than once.  Some principals chose not to participate because they did not want anyone to have the ability to link them to their opinions about the DOE.  But a majority of principals (144 out of 256) trusted EIH’s promise not to reveal the names of participating principals.

Complete Results Available.  The complete survey results, including the written comments of every survey participants, are attached to this news release.  They also can be found at http://www.edthinktankhawaii.org/.

Major Findings

Climate of Fear.  The climate of fear that was apparent in the 2014 EIH Principals Survey continues to exist.  For example, only two in five principals (41%) say they can express concern or critique DOE policies and practices without fear of reprisal, retaliation, or being unfairly evaluated on their performance evaluations.

Poor Implementation.  Principals give low marks to state DOE leadership for faulty implementation of Common Core and other recent initiatives:

  •  While most principals (70%) think Common Core has been good for their students, less than one in five (18%) thinks that state DOE leadership has done a good job of implementing it.
  • The percentage of principals who think state DOE leadership has done a good job of implementing the new testing regime is even smaller (8%).
  • Three out of four principals (78%) think the DOE’s implementation of the new teacher evaluation system (EES) has adversely affected morale at their schools.

Agreement with Governor Ige: Principals overwhelmingly support school empowerment and the governor’s plan to increase the percentage of DOE funding that is allocated by Weighted Student Formula (WSF) to 75%.

  • Only one in twenty principals (5%) disagree with the following statement:  “The share of DOE funding covered by WSF should be increased to 75% or higher.”
  • Only one in five principals (18%) say that the schools are already “empowered” to an appropriate degree.
  • Seven out of eight (87%) think school-level personnel should be allowed to control the means by which statewide standards and policies are achieved.
  • An even higher percentage of the principals (91%) think a principal who is not satisfied with support services from the DOE should be able to seek comparable services from a different provider.
  • None of the 144 principals disagreed with the following statement:  “I would like more flexibility in determining who will and will not work at my school.”

Lack of Support from DOE Leadership:  Only one in five (18%) thinks the DOE is providing the “system of support” that it is contractually obligated to provide, and the principals who say t DOE leadership treats them like partners are greatly outnumbered by those who say they are sometimes treated like servants.

  • Only 21% think that DOE leadership treats them like a partner.
  • Less than one in three (28%) disagrees with the following statement:  “DOE leadership sometimes treats me and other members of my school community like servants.”
  • Only one in three principals (32%) has confidence in the Superintendent.
  • Only one in five (21%) has confidence in the Assistant Superintendents.
  • Only one in nine (11%) has confidence in the Board of Education.

Observations of EIH leadership:

EIH President and Board Chair Roberta Mayor noted that “survey results indicate that principals are overwhelmingly in favor of Governor Ige’s school empowerment agenda.”

“Leading research indicates that principals are a key factor for student achievement, according to EIH Executive Director Darrel Galera.  “Supporting and empowering principals to be instructional leaders must be a priority, if it is ever to happen.”

EIH Vice-President and Board Vice-chair Ray L’Heureux said EIH’s goal is to add some transparency to the public school system, and added, “We also plan to survey teachers, parents, and state-level administrators in the near future.”

Purposes of the survey include the following:

  • To determine if principals have a collective voice, a shared perspective, and common agreement on relevant issues including school empowerment;
  • To provide feedback on the implementation of required policies, procedures, and initiatives that affect principals and their schools;
  • To provide feedback that can help to improve Hawaii’s public education system – so that principals can:
  1. Be student centered in meeting student learning needs
  2. Be more effective instructional leaders that support classroom teachers
  3. Build and sustain a positive school culture evidenced by high achievement and high morale
  4. Empower their school communities to provide for innovative and effective teaching and learning.

Groundbreaking Ceremony Begins Construction For New Hilo International Airport Aircraft Rescue & Firefighting Station

The state Department of Transportation (HDOT), Airports Division, celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony today for the new Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) station at the Hilo International Airport.

ito fire department 2

The new two-story, 21,000 square-foot facility will include four drive-through truck bays, a fueling area, new training facilities, along with improved work and living quarters for firefighters.

“Our crews here at the Hilo ARFF station provide very specialized Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting responses that are unique to the airport setting,” said Ross Higashi, Deputy Director of the Airports Division. “Each of these improvements will supply our firefighters with the facilities they need to train and carry out operations.”

ITO Fire department

Nearly 87-percent of the $18.8 million total was provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  State funds covered the remaining $3 million. The new station will be fully compliant with FAA requirements and is anticipated to be completed by June 2016.

“The safety of our air travelers is always one of our highest priorities,” said Governor David Ige. “Each of these improvements will help to keep our firefighters better trained, better equipped and ready to respond when the need arises. We look forward to the work being completed on time.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawaii Residents Urged to Chase Water Waste this Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

20th Annual Kick Butts Day in Hawaii

Kids in Hawaii will stand up to Big Tobacco on March 18 as they join thousands of young people nationwide for the 20th annual Kick Butts Day. More than 1,000 events are planned nationwide for this day of youth activism, sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. (See below for a list of local events.)

toll of tobaccoOn Kick Butts Day, kids encourage their peers to stay tobacco-free, demand that tobacco companies stop marketing deadly, addictive products to them and encourage elected officials to do more to reduce youth tobacco use.

This year, Kick Butts Day is focusing attention on how the tobacco industry still spends huge sums on marketing and is adopting new strategies to reach young customers. Nationwide, tobacco companies spend $8.8 billion a year – one million dollars every hour – to market tobacco products. In Hawaii, tobacco companies spend $26.9 million annually on marketing efforts. The industry’s tactics that entice kids include:

  • Splashy ads in magazines with large youth readership, such as Sports Illustrated, ESPN the Magazine and Rolling Stone.
  • Widespread advertising and price discounts in stores, which make tobacco products appealing and affordable to kids.
  • New, sweet-flavored tobacco products such as small cigars and electronic cigarettes. The latest surveys show that youth use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed.

In addition to organizing events, kids are standing up to the tobacco industry on social media through the #NotAReplacement selfie campaign. The tobacco industry’s own documents reveal that they have long targeted kids as “replacement smokers” for the more than 480,000 people their products kill each year in the United States. Kids are taking selfies to say they’re not a replacement and sharing the photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the #NotAReplacement hashtag. (view the #NotAReplacement selfie gallery)

“On Kick Butts Day, kids stand up and reject Big Tobacco’s manipulative marketing,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. “We can make the next generation tobacco-free and end the tobacco epidemic for good. Elected officials can help reach that goal by standing with kids and supporting proven strategies to prevent youth tobacco use, including higher tobacco taxes, strong smoke-free laws and prevention programs.”

Health advocates in Hawaii are urging state leaders to increase the legal sale age for tobacco products to 21 to reduce smoking and save lives. In Hawaii, tobacco use claims 1,400 lives and costs $526 million in health care bills each year. Currently, 10.4 percent of Hawaii’s high school students smoke.

On Kick Butts Day, kids engage in creative events that range from small classroom activities about the harmful ingredients in cigarettes to large rallies at state capitols.

In Hawaii, activities include:

Youth with the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii in Honolulu will hold a major event at the State Capitol to educate and empower their peers to advocate for a bill to raise the tobacco age of sale in the state to 21. Youth will create signs, post to social media, and meet with legislators in support of the bill. Time: 10 AM. Location: 415 S. Beretania Street, Honolulu. Contact: Mary Goldsworthy (509) 710-4298.

Students at Helemano School Age Center in Wahiawa will learn about the dangers of smoking and create a short phrase about staying tobacco-free to display in the youth center’s fence with cups. Time: 3 PM. Location: 327 Kuapale Road, Wahiawa. Contact: Rebecca Staggs (808) 653-0724.

The U.S. Army Hawaii Youth Sports in Honolulu will hold a day of activities for youth to stand up to tobacco, including a fun run, a dance performance to ‘Thriller’ and informational activities. Time: 11:30 AM. Location: 4725 Bougainville Drive, Honolulu. Contact: Brittany Bigham (808) 426-8790.

All events noted above are on March 18. For a full list of Kick Butts Day activities in Hawaii, visit www.kickbuttsday.org/map. Additional information about tobacco, including state-by-state statistics, can be found at www.tobaccofreekids.org.

Rep. San Buenaventura Bills Pass House, Advances to Senate

As the 2015 Legislature reached its midway point this week, a number of bills introduced by Puna Representative Joy San Buenaventura are now up for consideration by the Senate after being passed by the full House of Representatives.

Reps. Joy San Buenaventura and Richard Creagan on the House floor.

Reps. Joy San Buenaventura and Richard Creagan on the House floor.

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to keep these bills alive halfway through the very rigorous process of creating legislation,” Rep. Buenaventura said.  “They represent real solutions to everyday issues and problems faced by the people of Puna in the aftermath of life changing natural disasters, and I will continue to push for them even as they move to the Senate chambers.”

Among the bills are several measures that seek to address concerns raised by residents affected by the recent natural disasters that have impacted the Puna region.

  • HB737, HD2 helps current and future homeowners who reside in lava zone areas that has been declared to be in a state of emergency to obtain and renew property insurance policies.  This Act also enables a homeowner, in such a lava zone, who had no prior property insurance coverage to purchase insurance coverage to be effective within six months from the date of policy acceptance. (Co-introducer)
  • HB1314 HD1 establishes the emergency home relocation special fund to assist persons dispossessed of their homes as a result of a natural disaster by providing for infrastructure development, grants, and loans. (Primary Introducer)
  • HB376 HD2 makes specific changes to the Chief Election Officer including designating the position as an at-will employee; and requires the State Elections Commission to conduct a performance evaluation and to hold a public hearing on the performance of the Chief Elections Officer. (Primary introducer)

Others bills introduced by Rep. San Buenaventura and passed by the House include:

  • HB847, HD1 appropriates funds for an Interdisciplinary Hawaii Health Systems Corp. (HHSC) Primary Care Training Program at Hilo Medical Center to address the shortage of primary care physicians—particularly on the neighbor islands and in rural communities. (Co-introducer)
  • HB851, HD1 appropriates funds to establish an advanced life support ambulance based in Puna. (Co-introducer)
  • HB1107 appropriates funds for the establishment and maintenance of a bookmobile that will serve the rural areas of the island of Hawaii. (Primary introducer)
  • HB1370, HD1 provides statutory authority for the Employees’ Retirement System Administrator to make direct payment to a former spouse of a member of benefits or portion thereof pursuant to valid court judgment, order or decree. (Primary introducer)
  • HB87 shields process servers from prosecution under criminal trespass statutes when performing their duties. (Primary introducer)

A full list of measures proposed by Rep. San Buenaventura is available at http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/advreport.aspx?report=intro&year=2015&leg=San%20Buenaventura&rpt_type=first_pri.

Rail Surcharge, Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Among Key Bills Approved by Hawaii House

As the Thursday crossover deadline approaches, the House passed bills: modifying the state’s excise tax surcharge for rail, authorizing the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii, requiring health insurers with greater than 20 percent of the state’s small group insurance market to offer qualified health plans under the Hawaii Health Connector, and facilitating the creation of a private-public partnership for Maui’s public hospitals.

capital

The House also passed on to the Senate today another 200 bills including measures addressing the state’s infrastructure, local businesses and the economy, and participation and transparency in government.  The three areas reflect the focus of the House majority on improving and modernizing government that was identified at the start of the legislative session.

The House now stands in recess and will reconvene to take action on any remaining final measures for third reading on Thursday, March 12 at 12 p.m. To date, the House has approved more than 300 bills this session, which will now move to the Senate for its consideration.

Following Thursday’s crossover deadline, the House will focus its attention on HB500, relating to the state budget, which must be passed out of the committee on Finance by March 16 and voted on by the full body by March 18.

Key and topical measures passed by the House today include:

  • HB134, HD1, which removes the authority of the City and County of Honolulu to collect a tax surcharge beginning on January 1, 2016, but would allow all counties, including the City and County of Honolulu, to adopt a new tax surcharge at a rate of 0.25 per cent, beginning on January 1, 2017, and restricts the tax surcharge adopted by the City and County of Honolulu, if any, to be used for Honolulu’s rail project
  • HB321, HD1, which establishes and provides funding for medical marijuana dispensaries and production centers, mandates at least one dispensary in each county, and allows for the manufacturing of capsules, lozenges, oils and pills containing medical marijuana
  • HB1467, HD2, which enables Hawaii’s Health Connector to offer large group coverage to insurers and requires health insurers with a greater than 20 percent share of the state’s small group health insurance market to offer at least one silver and at least one gold qualified health plan as a condition for participating in the Health Connector’s individual market
  • HB1075, HD2, which authorizes the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation Maui Regional System to enter into an agreement with a private entity to transition one or more of its facilities into a new private Hawaii nonprofit corporation
  • HB1112, HD2, which reconsolidates Hawaii Health Systems Corporation’s (HHSC) operational administration and oversight by eliminating regional system boards, repealing certain limits on operational authority within HHSC and amending requirements for HHSC supplemental bargaining agreements for its employees
  • HB295, HD1, which limits compelled disclosure of sources or unpublished information by journalists, newscasters and persons participating in collection or dissemination of news or information of substantial public interest (Shield Law), and establishes exceptions
  • HB940, HD1, which prohibits the use of electronic smoking devices in places where smoking is prohibited
  • HB1089, HD2, which requires motor vehicle safety inspections to be conducted every two years rather than annually for vehicles registered in a county with a population of 300,000 or less
  • HB1090, HD2, which prohibits non-compete agreements and restrictive covenants that forbid post-employment competition for employees of a technology business to stimulate economic development in Hawaii’s technology business sector
  • HB1011, HD1, which defines dangerous wheels on motor vehicles and prohibits their use
  • HB631, HD2, which establishes the documentation required when a birth registrant requests the state Department of Health to issue a new birth certificate with a sex designation change;

In addition, bills relating to the focus of the House majority on improving and modernizing government include:

INFRASTRUCTURE

Education

  • HB820, HD2, which establishes the Executive Office on Early Learning Prekindergarten Program to be administered by the Executive Office on Early Learning and provided through Department of Education public schools and public charter schools
  • HB819, HD2, which requires state and county agencies and grantees that serve youth to adopt bullying prevention policies, and establishes a task force to assist the Governor with bullying prevention policies in the state

Energy

  • HB1504, HD2, which requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to study electric utilities, including organizational models and the conversion process, and establishes a cap on the Hawaii electricity reliability surcharge for interconnection to the Hawaii electric system
  • HB623, HD2, which increases the state’s renewable portfolio standards to 70 percent by December 31, 2035, and 100 percent by December 31, 2045, and adds the impact on renewable energy developer energy prices to PUC study and reporting requirements
  • HB264, HD1, which requires the PUC to establish a process for the creation of integrated energy districts or micro-grids
  • HB1286, HD2, which amends the state’s objectives and policies relating to energy facility systems, including a policy of ensuring that fossil fuels such as liquefied natural gas be used only as a transitional, limited-term replacement of petroleum for electricity generation and not impede the development and use of renewable energy sources
  • HB1509, HD3, which requires the University of Hawaii to establish a collective goal of becoming a net-zero energy user by January 1, 2035, establishes the University of Hawaii Net-zero Special Fund, and appropriates funds for capital improvement projects and for staff
  • HB240, HD1, which expands the types of businesses qualified to receive benefits under the state enterprise zone law to include service businesses that provide air conditioning project services from seawater air conditioning district cooling systems

The Environment

  • HB1087, HD1, which establishes a task force on field-constructed underground storage tanks in Hawaii, and changes the amount of the tax deposited into the Environmental Response Revolving Fund from five cents per barrel to an unspecified amount to support environmental activities and programs
  • HB440, HD1, which appropriates funds to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for projects related to watershed management plans, equipment for fire, natural disaster and emergency response, and forest and outdoor recreation improvement
  • HB438, HD1, which appropriates funds to the Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission for restoration and preservation projects
  • HB444, HD3, which expands the scope of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Beach Restoration Plans and Beach Restoration Special Fund to include beach conservation and allocates funds from the Transient Accommodations Tax for beach restoration and conservation
  • HB620, HD2, which prohibits labeling of a plastic product as compostable unless it meets ASTM D6400 standards (American Society for Testing Materials)
  • HB722, HD2, which establishes a Lipoa Point Management Council within the state Department of Land and Natural Resources for the development of Lipoa Point, and appropriates moneys for land surveyor services, maintenance services and development of a master plan
  • HB1141, HD2, which prohibits new installation of a cesspool and new construction served by a cesspool after December 31, 2016, and authorizes the state Department of Health to develop rules for exceptions
  • HB749, which imposes on wholesalers and dealers a beach clean-up cigarette fee per cigarette sold, used or possessed, and establishes and allocates monies generated to the Beach Clean-Up Special Fund for litter removal from beach land

University of Hawaii

  • HB540, HD1, which seeks to improve the accounting and fiscal management system of the University of Hawaii by requiring the Board of Regents to submit to the Legislature before the end of each fiscal quarter a fiscal program performance report

Financial Stability

  • HB171, HD1, which appropriates funds for fiscal year 2015-2016 to be deposited into the Hurricane Reserve Trust Fund
  • HB172, HD1, which appropriates funds for fiscal year 2015-2016 to be deposited into the Emergency and Budget Reserve Fund
  • HB1102, HD1, which requires the state Department of Taxation to conduct a study on modernizing the state tax collection system and submit a report to the legislature
  • HB1356, which establishes the Rate Stabilization Reserve Fund to stabilize the Hawaii Employer-Union Health Benefits Trust Fund when there is insufficient money to cover the costs of providing benefits to employee-beneficiaries and dependent-beneficiaries, and caps employer contributions to the separate trust fund when the separate accounts for each public employer within the separate trust fund have a combined balance of at least $2 billion

Women

  • HB456, HD1, which provides a safe mechanism for reporting complaints regarding domestic violence when a police officer is involved
  • HB457, HD1, which appropriates funds for positions and materials to comply with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013
  • HB452, HD1, which appropriates funds to the Department of the Attorney General for statewide sexual assault counseling and support services for fiscal biennium 2015-2017 and, beginning with the 2017-2018 fiscal year, sets a minimum base budget of the state Department of the Attorney General for statewide sexual assault counseling and support services
  • HB459, HD2, which specifies additional elements in Hawaii’s existing sexuality health education law, including additional criteria regarding implementation of sexuality health education instruction, and requires the state Department of Education to provide certain types of sexuality health education information to the public and parents

Kupuna

  • HB1195, HD1, which increases the capacity of Type 1 Expanded Adult Residential Care Homes from two to three nursing facility level residents
  • HB600, HD1, which authorizes the state Department of Health to allow two private-pay individuals to be cared for in the same Community Care Foster Family home if certain requirements are met
  • HB493, HD1, which appropriates funds for a permanent full-time director and permanent full-time faculty specialist position within the University of Hawaii Center on Aging
  • HB492, which appropriates funds for the Judiciary to enter into contracts with community mediation centers for mediation services which can resolve disputes in a shorter timeframe and more economically than litigation and trial (Mediation serves two critical community needs: It increases access to justice for low income and vulnerable elderly residents to address legal disputes, and it provides the means to resolve family disputes, particularly those involving the care and needs of the elderly family member)

Consumer Protection

  • HB619, HD3, which clarifies standards and criteria for the Public Utilities Commission and Division of Consumer Advocacy to apply when determining whether to approve a sale, lease, assignment, mortgage, disposition, encumbrance, merger, or consolidation of an electric utility
  • HB737, HD2, which limits the total number of property insurance policies that an insurer may annually non-renew in a lava zone in Hawaii County during a state of emergency to 5 percent of the insurer’s policies in force, except for nonpayment of premiums or impairment of the insurer’s financial soundness and bars moratoria on residential property insurance in a lava zone in Hawaii County during a state of emergency if property insurance would be otherwise unavailable
  • HB268, HD2, which grants the director of Commerce and Consumer Affairs the power to issue cease and desist orders for the unlicensed practice of dentistry and for any other act or practice in violation of the dental licensing laws upon a specific determination that the failure to take such action may result in an immediate and unreasonable threat to personal safety or of fraud that jeopardizes or endangers the health or safety of patients or the public
  • HB1384, HD2, which requires additional Land Use Commission review for permit plan applications for wind turbines with over 100 kilowatt capacity and located within three-quarters of a mile of residential, school, hospital or business property lines

Social Safety Net

  • HB1377, HD1, which makes an appropriation to develop the specifications and pricing, as well as an implementation plan, for a web-based data system in the Early Intervention Section of the state Department of Health, and makes an appropriation for operating expenses and to establish one permanent coordinator position in the Children with Special Health Needs Branch of the Department of Health to improve social-emotional and behavioral outcomes for children birth to age five
  • HB253, HD2, which authorizes pharmacists to administer vaccines to persons between 14 and 17 years of age who have a valid prescription from the patient’s medical home
  • HB886, HD1, which extends the high-earner income tax brackets by an additional five years, raises the income tax credits provided to low-income households by the refundable food/excise tax credit and low-income household renter’s credit, and amends gross income thresholds for households qualifying for the low-income household renter’s credit
  • HB1091, HD1, which increases the standard deduction and allowable personal exemption amounts for all filing statuses, and increases the number of exemptions that may be claimed by taxpayers who are 65 years of age or older and meet certain income requirements
  • HB1295, HD1, which increases the low-income housing tax credit to 100 percent of the qualified basis for each building located in Hawaii

BUSINESS AND THE ECONOMY

Agriculture

  • HB1042, which appropriates funds for grants-in-aid to the counties for assistance with identifying and mapping Important Agricultural Lands
  • HB205, HD1, which includes traditional Hawaiian farming and small-scale farming to the objectives and policies for the economy to the Hawaii State Planning Act

Invasive Species

  • HB482, HD 2, which establishes a full-time temporary program manager position in state Department of Agriculture for the Pesticide Subsidy Program

Tourism

  • HB197, HD2, which amends amount of Transient Accommodations Tax revenues allocated to the counties from a specified sum to a percentage of the revenues collected for the counties to address visitor industry impacts on county services and tourism-related infrastructure
  • HB825, HD1, which establishes licensing requirements and enforcement provisions for transient vacation rentals to be administered by the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
  • HB792, HD2, which amends the Hawaii Rules of Evidence to authorize nonresident property crime victims to testify in misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor property criminal proceedings by a live two-way video connection

Economic Development

  • HB1454, HD2, which establishes a nonrefundable income tax credit for taxpayers who incur certain expenses for manufacturing products in Hawaii, starting with the taxable years beginning after December 31, 2015 (Sunsets January 1, 2023)
  • HB867, HD1, which authorizes the director of finance to issue general obligation bonds to support the Pacific International Space Center for exploration systems’ basalt rebar initiative, including construction of a basalt rebar plant and engineering assessments of the manufactured basalt rebar
  • HB1482, HD2, which establishes a crowdfunding exemption for limited intrastate investments between Hawaii residents and Hawaii businesses, limited to no more than $1,000,000 raised over a twelve month period, and no more than $5,000 per investor
  • HB1282, HD1, which appropriates monies for an engineering assessment and study for establishing a laser optical communications ground station in Hawaii to be conducted jointly by the Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems (PISCES) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

IMPROVING GOVERNMENT

Elections

  • HB124, HD2, which requires the Office of Elections to implement elections by mail in a county with a population less than 100,000 beginning with the primary election in 2016 (In 2018, elections by mail will be held in one or more counties with a population of more than 100,000) and, thereafter, requires all federal, state, and county primary, special primary, general, special general and special elections to be conducted by mail
  • HB15, HD1, which creates a statewide standard for the distribution of absentee ballots
  • HB376, HD2, which specifies that the Chief Election Officer is an at-will employee, requires Elections Commission to provide notice and reason for removal of a Chief Election Officer, requires a performance evaluation of the Chief Election Officer after a general election, and requires a public hearing on the Chief Election Officer’s performance for purposes of considering reappointment
  • HB401, HD2, which provides that all applicants for a new or renewed driver’s license, provisional license, instructional permit or civil identification card must either clearly decline to register to vote or fill out the voter affidavit on their application before their application can be processed
  • HB612, HD2, which prohibits disclosure of votes cast in a postponed election, authorizes discretionary withholding of election results unrelated to postponement, clarifies Governor’s emergency postponement authority, and limits postponement period to seven days after an election

Transparency in government

  • HB1491, HD2, which requires non-candidate committees making only independent expenditures to report whether their contributors of $10,000 or more are subject to disclosure reporting requirements and provide information about the contributor’s funding sources
  • HB180, HD1, which clarifies the requirements relating to the statement of expenditures of lobbyists to be filed for a special session.

A complete list of bills passed by the House to date is available on the Capitol website at:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/advreports/advreport.aspx?year=2015&report=deadline&active=true&rpt_type=firstCross&measuretype=HB&title=House%20Bills%20Crossed%20Over%20to%20the%20Senate

Expanded Access to Fresh Produce for Low-Income Individuals and Families

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made funds available that enable the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services (DHS) to provide eligible farmers markets and direct marketing farmers with free electronic benefit transfer (EBT) equipment to process Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

EBT Card

Administered through the Farmer’s Market Coalition (FMC), the Free SNAP EBT Equipment Program expands access to fresh produce for SNAP beneficiaries and expands commerce options for farmers and farmers markets.

The program is available to only to SNAP-authorized farmers markets and direct marketing farmers that were authorized before November 18, 2011. If the applying farmers and famers markets receive approval, the FMC will cover the costs of purchasing or renting SNAP EBT equipment and services (set-up costs, monthly service fees, and wireless fees) for up to three years. Though transaction fees will not be covered, the selected farmers and farmers markets will get to choose their own SNAP EBT service provider from a list of participating companies.

The Free SNAP EBT Equipment Program is a first-come first-serve opportunity, and the program ends when the funds have been distributed.

If a farmers market or direct marketing farmer isn’t yet SNAP-authorized, or became SNAP-authorized on or after November 18, 2011, then they may be eligible for free equipment through MarketLink. Learn more about MarketLink’s application process at www.marketlink.org.

For more information on the Free SNAP EBT Equipment Program, including frequently asked questions, an eligibility chart, background information and application instructions, visit http://farmersmarketcoalition.org/programs/freesnapebt/.

Click here for a county-by-county listing of Farmers Markets.

Jack Johnson and Polynesian Voyaging Society Launch Song Celebrating 40 Years of Hōkūleʻa

The Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) today launched a special online crowdfunding campaign in partnership with musician Jack Johnson.

Nainoa Thompson and Jack Johnson

Nainoa Thompson and Jack Johnson

The campaign, which is now live at RallySong.com, offers users a chance to download the song “Na Ho‘okele Opoipio (The Young Navigators),” which was written by Chucky Boy Chock and recorded with Johnson and Paula Fuga in honor of the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage.

“The Polynesian discovery of islands throughout the Pacific Ocean was one of humanity’s most amazing achievements,” said Jack Johnson, songwriter and musician. “With the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, we have a new generation of navigators exploring the earth and bringing people together to find a sustainable future. We are proud to support them with this song, “Na Hoʻokele Opiopio,” which means, “The Young Navigators.”

Cultivating and nurturing the next generation of navigators is a key focus for the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, which seeks to educate people and communities around the world about the values of traditional wayfinding (non-instrument navigation) and the importance of caring for our Island Earth.

Chucky, Jack and Paula

Chucky Boy, Jack and Paula

“We are grateful to Jack Johnson, Chucky Boy, and Paula for honoring our next generation of navigators,” said Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

Jack and Paula and Chucky Boy“Across the globe, there are young people with the courage to set a new course and protect our natural environment. They are our leaders and navigators, whether they are on canoes or not, and we hope this campaign will provide a way for more people to join our voyage.”

All proceeds from the RallySong campaign will benefit PVS and the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage. In addition to purchasing and downloading the song, fans can also purchase collector’s items and enter a raffle for a chance to win grand prizes such as an ukulele autographed by Jack Johnson and a Papa He‘e Nalu (small wood surfboard), crafted with mahagony wood from the deckboards of the Hōkūleʻa. The campaign runs through April 25, 2015 and seeks to meet a fundraising goal of $75,000.

“This fundraiser comes at a critical juncture for PVS and the Worldwide Voyage, as we prepare to leave the Pacific for the first time,” said Clyde Namuʻo, PVS Chief Executive Officer. “In 2015 we will be travelling from New Zealand to Australia and South Africa, and every contribution from our community will make it possible for us to complete this historic leg of our journey around the world.”

Hōkūleʻa, a traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe, is celebrating 40 years this year since her first launch from the sacred shores of Hakipu‘u-Kualoa in Kāne‘ohe Bay, O’ahu, on March 8, 1975. The iconic canoe helped contribute to a significant generation of renewal for Hawaiian culture and language, and revitalized voyaging and navigation traditions throughout the Pacific Ocean.

The Hawaiian name for this journey, Mālama Honua, means “to care for our Island Earth” and is taking Hōkūleʻa and her sister canoe Hikianalia across Earth’s oceans to grow a global movement toward a more sustainable world. The Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage, sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines, will cover 47,000 nautical miles, 85 ports, 26 nations, including 12 of UNESCO’s Marine World Heritage sites, through June 2017. The canoes are currently in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Paniolo Power Files Motion to Consolidate Merger, PSIP Dockets

Paniolo Power Company, LLC, a subsidiary of Parker Ranch, Inc., filed a motion today to merge two of the most important cases currently before the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission into one docket—the Hawaiian Electric Companies’ (HECO)-NextEra acquisition and the HECO clean energy plan.

Paniolo Power Company

The Change of Control docket addresses NextEra Energy, Inc.’s proposed acquisition of the HECO Companies. The PSIP docket addresses HECO’s long-term clean energy strategy and transition plan.

“The issues in both the Change of Control and the PSIP dockets are inextricably linked,” said Jose Dizon, General Manager of Paniolo Power. “HECO’s lack of focus on customer value has led it to continue to use oil-fired power plants, with the associated high fuel prices that are passed on to the ratepayers.”

Understanding the destructive effects of fuel volatility, Dizon added, the PUC in April 2014 issued harsh guidance to the Hawaiian Electric Companies to accelerate power plant retirements and aggressively pursue clean energy sources.

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New Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Scientist-In-Charge

The U.S. Geological Survey is pleased to announce the selection of Christina (Tina) Neal to serve as the new Scientist-in-Charge of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Neal succeeds Jim Kauahikaua, who served in the position for the past ten years.

Christina Neal, Scientist-in-Charge, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

Christina Neal, Scientist-in-Charge, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

It is a fitting coincidence that Neal, only the second woman to lead USGS HVO in its 103-year-long history, takes the helm on March 8, International Women’s Day, a day established to celebrate the achievements of women around the world.

“Tina brings to the HVO Scientist-in-Charge position the required breadth of scientific background, strong communication skills, and eruption response experience, including much work with various communities at risk. I was thrilled when she accepted the position, because I knew that both HVO and the communities that it serves will be in good hands going forward,” said Tom Murray, Director of the USGS Volcano Science Center, which oversees all five U.S. volcano observatories.

Neal comes to Hawai‘i from Alaska, where she spent almost 25 years working as a USGS geologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory. After so many years in the land of the midnight sun, swapping snowshoes for ‘slippahs’ (flip-flops) might seem a drastic change, but she’s no stranger to the aloha state—or HVO.

From 1983 to 1989, Neal lived in Volcano, and worked on the staff at HVO.  Her work included monitoring Kīlauea Volcano during the early years of its ongoing East Rift Zone eruption, as well as Mauna Loa during its 1984 eruption. She fondly recalls one day in March 1984, when she spent the morning working atop the erupting Mauna Loa and the afternoon collecting lava samples from the active Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent on Kīlauea.  For a volcanologist, simultaneous eruptions on two volcanoes made for an unforgettable workday.

As part of the Big Island Mapping Project, Neal mapped the summit of Kīlauea, resulting in the USGS publication “Geologic Map of the Summit Region of Kīlauea Volcano, Hawaii.” She also mapped Kīlauea’s Southwest Rift Zone for the “Geologic Map of the Island of Hawai‘i.”

In 1990, Neal moved to Alaska to work at the newly-created AVO in Anchorage.  There, she monitored and studied a number of Alaskan volcanoes and their eruptions, including Redoubt (1989–1990 and 2009), Mount Spurr (1992), Augustine (2005–2006), and Okmok (2008). Working on remote Alaskan stratovolcanoes is not for the faint-hearted—the steep-sided, glacier-covered volcanic mountains are hazardous even when not erupting—a tip-off to the mettle of which Neal is made.

In 1998, Neal accepted a two-year assignment in Washington, D.C., as the first USGS geoscience advisor to the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, within the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is responsible for coordinating U.S. government responses to disasters overseas. Her travels during this assignment took her to Thailand, Nepal, Ecuador, Colombia, Kazakhstan, and other foreign countries, where she reviewed or assisted with the implementation of hazard mitigation programs.

When Neal returned to AVO in 2000, she resumed her work as a geologist—mapping and studying active Alaskan volcanoes. With colleagues, she strengthened the Alaska-based interagency response system for volcanic eruptions and coordinated AVO’s eruption monitoring and crisis response efforts with Russian volcanology counterparts. She is also internationally recognized for her efforts to reduce the risk of volcanic ash to aviation in the North Pacific and globally.

In addition to outstanding geologic work, Neal honed her managerial skills during two details as Chief of Staff and Deputy Regional Director for the USGS Western Regional Office in 2009–2010 and as Acting Scientist-in-Charge at AVO in 2010.

Over the years, Neal has maintained ties to HVO.  In 2012, she helped with HVO’s 100th Anniversary Open House, and in October 2014, she spent two weeks at HVO assisting with monitoring efforts and community meetings as Kīlauea’s active lava flow moved toward Pāhoa.

Hawaii State Legislature Forms Outdoor Heritage Caucus

Today, Senator Laura Thielen (25th Senatorial District) and Representative Cindy Evans (7th House District) announced the launch of the Outdoor Heritage Caucus.

capital

The caucus’s mission is to identify, protect, and promote the State of Hawai‘i’s heritage of subsistence hunting and fishing, outdoor cultural practices and recreational activities, and to foster appreciation and respect for outdoor heritage.

The caucus will focus on: (1) ensuring public access to public lands for the enjoyment of outdoor pursuits; (2) safeguarding the integrity of user-pays trust funds, license revenues, and other dedicated financial contributions by hunter men and women, fishermen and women, and outdoor recreational users; and (3) enhancing state aquatic and wildlife habitat conservation for current and future generations. Legislators in this caucus will watch national debate on issues related to outdoor cultural practices, recreational activities, and hunting and fishing.

“We are pleased to announce the formation of the Outdoor Heritage Caucus,” Evans stated. “With population growth and challenges of liability, many people are looking at our natural resources from different aspects. We need to find balance to make sure that we can use the outdoors but still maintain protection of our natural resources so we can pass on our practices. The group of legislators in this caucus would like to send a strong statement that we value the quality of life in Hawai‘i and perpetuate the joys and opportunities outdoors for future generations.”

“The Outdoor Heritage Caucus is a great way to showcase and advocate for outdoor recreation in Hawai‘i,” said Thielen. As more and more residents and tourists explore our state’s varied outdoor recreational opportunities, it is important to ensure that there is adequate support and funding for these opportunities.”

outdoor caucus

Kauluwehi 2015 Juried Lei Art Contest and Exhibition

Amateurs and professional lei artists of all ages are invited to demonstrate their lei-making skills in the second annual Kauluwehi Lei Contest 2015, from May 1 to 8.

kauluwehi

This is a juried lei art contest, award ceremony and exhibition celebrating the native plant species, Hawaiian culture and sustainable picking practices on Hawaii Island. The event at the Wailoa Center in Hilo, will also feature refreshments, live music, keiki and adult crafts.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW)/Hawaii Island Natural Area Reserves Program (NARS), the Three Mountain Alliance (TMA) and the Wailoa Arts and Cultural Center are sponsors.

The contest and preceding lei workshops encourage lei makers and non-lei makers alike to explore the rich assemblage of extraordinary native plants and animals unique to Hawai‘i. The practice of lei making provides an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the native ecosystems and build connections to our ‘âina.

There are three main categories for entries: kahiko (traditional style lei), ‘auana (contemporary lei) and lei hulu (feather lei).

The kahiko category features several subcategories, each showcasing a particular material such as the leaves, flowers, or the fruit and seed of a plant.

The ‘auana category moves away from the traditional style of lei making by incorporating recycled materials, synthetic materials and exotic plant materials. Lei will be judged on craftsmanship, creativeness of design, uniqueness of material and the complexity or effort applied.

All lei entries, accompanying entry form and a $5 fee for each entry must be submitted on Thursday, April 30, at the Division of Forestry and Wildlife office in Hilo at 19 E. Kawili St., between 3 to 6 p.m.

The Kauluwehi opening reception is set take place on Friday, May 1, May Day at the Wailoa Center in Hilo between 5 and 7 p.m. Everyone is invited to come down to witness the craftsmanship and artistry that Hawai‘i Island’s lei makers have put forth in a display of intricate beauty and color that can be found nowhere else. Winners will be announced at 6 p.m. Lei will be displayed during the opening reception through Friday May 8.

For more contest rules, information and entry form for Kauluwehi Lei Contest go to http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dofaw/education/kauluwehi, or contact Anya Tagawa, outreach and education specialist of the DLNR Hawaii Island NARS at anya.h.tagawa@hawaii.gov or (808) 443-4245.

Quarantine Restrictions Extended to All Coffee Grown on Oahu

The Hawaii Board of Agriculture (HBOA) voted Wednesday to place coffee grown on all areas of Oahu under the same quarantine restrictions as was issued earlier for the Waialua area on Oahu and Hawaii Island to prevent the spread of the coffee berry borer (CBB).

Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus hampei)

Coffee Berry Borer (Hypothenemus hampei)

On Dec. 17, 2014, HBOA placed coffee grown at Waialua Estate Coffee Farms and coffee roasted at the Old Waialua Sugar Mill under the same quarantine restrictions as coffee grown on Hawaii Island due to the detection of CBB infestations at the sites. Since the initial detections in Waialua, CBB has been found in Wahiawa and Poamoho in Central Oahu.

Today, the board voted unanimously to expand the designated infested area and extend the interisland quarantine restrictions to all of Oahu beginning tomorrow, Feb. 25, 2015.

“Expanding the coffee quarantine safeguards to cover Oahu is an important step in helping to keep other coffee-growing islands free of the coffee berry borer,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the HBOA. “Oahu is a hub for the state’s coffee trade and we need to make sure that coffee beans that are imported to, as well as exported from Oahu are not spreading this destructive pest.”

So far, CBB has not been detected on Maui, Kauai, Molokai and Lanai.

The quarantine restrictions imposed today for Oahu are exactly the same as those which have been in effect for coffee from Hawaii Island since December 2010. It requires a permit from HDOA to transport unroasted coffee beans, coffee plants and plant parts, used coffee bags and coffee harvesting equipment from CBB-infested islands to other non-infested areas or islands to prevent CBB movement. The rules also require certain treatments and inspection by HDOA Plant Quarantine inspectors prior to shipping. Inspectors will either attach a tag, label or stamp to indicate the shipment passed inspection requirements. For unroasted coffee beans, acceptable treatment protocols include fumigation, freezing and heat treatment. The coffee beans must also be roasted at a facility that is at least five miles from any commercial coffee-growing area.

One of the most devastating coffee pests, CBB was first detected in the state in September 2010 in Kona and discovered in Ka`u in May 2011. In early December 2014, HDOA confirmed the presence of the CBB (Hypothenemus hampei) on the coffee farm in Waialua, Oahu. This small beetle bores into the coffee “cherry” to lay its eggs. The larvae feed on the coffee bean, reducing the yield and quality of the bean. CBB is native to Central Africa and is also found in many coffee-growing regions of the world, including Central and South America.

Since its detection in Kona in 2010, Big Island coffee growers have developed methods to manage the pest, which include using an organic pesticide and field sanitation practices. Some farms with good management practices have been able to keep infestations down to about 20 percent of the coffee crop.

For more information on CBB in Hawaii, go to HDOA’s CBB information page at: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/pi/ppc/cbbinfo/

Hawaiian Electric Companies Continues to Accept Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Applications

Contrary to some reports, the Hawaiian Electric Companies are continuing to accept solar photovoltaic (PV) applications through the current net energy metering process, which includes a technical review for safety and reliability. The companies are also making significant progress clearing pending applications on circuits that already have very high amounts of solar.

Shaka For HELCOOverall, Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric and Hawaii Electric Light continue to lead the nation in rooftop PV. An estimated 12 percent of the utilities’ customers have rooftop solar system, compared with the national average of less than one percent.

These efforts are part of the companies’ commitment to meet three overarching energy commitments by 2030. These include:

  1. Nearly tripling the amount of distributed solar
  2. Achieving 65 percent renewable energy use
  3. Lowering customer bills by 20 percent

“We know rooftop PV is an important option for our customers. We are continuing to follow the current net energy metering process while the Public Utilities Commission considers our proposal to transition to a fairer, more sustainable program. It’s critical for our community that we increase solar in a way that maintains reliability and is safe and fair for all customers,” said Jim Alberts, Hawaiian Electric senior vice president for customer service.

A recent letter to some Hawaii Electric Light customers who submitted applications for projects in areas of Hawai‘i Island with high amounts of solar has been mischaracterized by a national solar group as an effort by the Hawaiian Electric Companies to stop all solar installations.

“We apologize for the confusion and want to assure our customers that we are continuing to process solar applications. We are reviewing our notification procedures to improve communication with our customers,” Alberts said.

Highlights of progress made

  • Earlier this week, Hawaiian Electric reported to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission that it notified an additional 548 O‘ahu customers who have been waiting for their net energy metering applications to be processed. Hundreds more are now being approved.
  • This was the first large group of Oahu customers to be cleared from a backlog of 2,749 applications, all from neighborhoods with high existing amounts of PV as of last October. Hawaiian Electric has committed to clearing 90 percent of that backlog by April, with the remaining customers applications to be approved by the end of 2015.
  • In addition, Maui Electric approved 331 applications in neighborhoods with high amounts of solar, nearly clearing its entire backlog. Hawaii Electric Light had 336 applications under review in neighborhoods with high amounts of solar, and approvals have since begun.
  • Overall, more than 3,000 net energy metering applications have been approved since the beginning of the year across the five islands that the Hawaiian Electric Companies serve.

In January, Hawaiian Electric, Maui Electric, and Hawaii Electric Light proposed a new program that would support the continued growth of rooftop solar while ensuring equitable rates for all customers. The new transitional distributed generation program would help address the current growing cost shift for operating and maintaining electric grids from customers who have rooftop solar to customers who don’t. At the end of 2013, that cost shift was approximately $38 million. By the end of 2014, that subsidy borne by non-solar customers had grown to $53 million.

In conjunction with this transitional distributed generation program, the utilities expect to be able to help the growth of solar by more than doubling the threshold for neighborhood circuits to accept solar systems. This would eliminate in most of those cases the need for a longer and costly interconnection study.