MEASURES THE SIERRA CLUB SUPPORTS:
HB 2656 - Overseeing Crematory Air Pollution.
Crematoriums that operate in communities should not be free to release plumes of smoke, including mercury and other toxics, into the air without an obligation to obtain a clean air permit, follow best practices for reducing pollution, and self-reporting any violations of the permit conditions.
HB 2703 - Establishing Food Sustainability Goals.
This measure prioritizes food production among the state prioritizes, establishes target goals for food production within Hawaii, and requires the Department of Agriculture to track and report on specific metrics over time. A similar concept helped pump prime Hawaii's clean energy industry. Tangible goals with metrics that define success effectively brought previously bickering parties together to work on solving Hawaii's dangerous dependence on foreign oil.
In a down economic time, this measure is a concept that advances long-term economic growth. DOA estimates that this concept could generate a billion dollars in new sales for our businesses, stimulate $300 million in new household earnings, create more than 14,000 new jobs with living wages, and pump $39 million in new tax revenues into our state coffers.
HB 2820 - Advancing Hawaiian Fishponds (lok i'a).
The measure advances an environmentally sensitive method and culturally desirable method of raising food for human consumption. By giving preference to these projects when leasing state land, we can encourage the preservation and restoration of Hawaiian fishponds.
MEASURES THE SIERRA CLUB OPPOSES IN CURRENT FORM:
HB 2145 - State Intent to Complete 10 Projects.
This measure indicates it shall be the state policy to complete ten specific development projects, such as the condominium tower project at 690 Pohukaiana Street, the Honolulu rail system, a culinary institute on the slope of Diamond Head. While it is appropriate to set broad goals, like establishing enough renewable energy production to meet the goals of the Hawaii Clean Energy initiative, it is absolutely unconstitutional and bad governance to pick specific winning and losing development projects without considering the potential impacts of the project, reviewing the specific proposals, and giving an opportunity for community input.
HB 2324 - No Regulation for Broadband Development on State Property.
This measure exempts broadband facilities from all "county permitting requirements and state permitting and approval requirements" on "state buildings, and the property which state buildings are located." While we appreciate the Committee on Finance's attempt to limit the reach of this bill, it would still have considerable impact -- relatively few properties, for example, do not have a state building located on them.
This measure uses a hammer when a more subtle tool might be more appropriate. The bill fails to define "broadband facilities," which arguably might include large towers, undersea cable landings, and business offices. It eliminates consideration of historical or cultural protections, community input, or the potential impacts of a commercial operation on fragile ecosystems. Removing any approval requirements, could mean that private businesses are able to operate commercial operations in our public parks or boat harbors.
Hypothetically, this measure could result in a WiFi tower at the top of Iolani Palace or a Clearwire sales office at Koke'e State Park without any public discourse, public auction, or income received. Crazy -- admittedly -- but, so is this measure.
HB 2325 - Broadband Automatic Approval.
Similar to the measure above, this bill would require the approval or disproval of all broadband-related permits within 45 days. It would eliminate consultation with neighborhood boards and significantly increase the possibility that bad projects are automatically approved because, say, a city council or could not meet in time to consider the project. Automatic approval is simply bad policy that punishes the community because of government inaction; why should a bad project, like a destructive undersea boring through a pristine marine ecosystem, be automatically approved simply because BLNR was not able to get a quorum at a meeting?
As drafted, this measure is probably an unconstitutional violation of the right to a clean environment.
HB 2690 - Geothermal Development Exempted from EA/EIS Requirements.
This measure streamlines the geothermal development process -- not necessarily a bad goal -- but exempts all exploration drilling from any environmental review. This would drill a hole through the cultural and environmental protections designed over the past 40 years to prevent harm to the environment from careless development. If passed, this measure would allow developers to dig thousands of feet through our aquifers, without consideration of the quality of the drinking water, the potential for contamination, or the impacts of a blowout in the surrounding area. Recent advances like "laser-drilling" are just coming online and it's unclear what risks they may pose. While some risk may be acceptable in some areas, it is unclear why any consideration of environmental risks should be eliminated particularly considering how tragic the negative consequences could be.
It should be observed how controversial geothermal development has been in the past, in large part because companies, like HECO, attempted to promote development in pristine Hawaiian rain forests without listening to community input. This bill repeats the mistakes of the past.
HB 2613 - Submerged lands exempt from CDUA process
This bill would exempt any work in a commercial harbor from BLNR review. This would eliminate the only constitutionally-required process by which agencies ensure the proposed land use conserves and protects natural resources for future generations and ensure protection of Native Hawaii traditional and customary rights. While it might be entirely appropriate to expedite "manini" projects from a conservation district use permit, this bill would exempt all activities on submerged lands for state commercial harbor purposes, regardless of size, scope, or potential impacts.
HB 2154 - Exempt airports from SMA to comply with FAA regulations
This measure is over broad and unnecessary. The special management area law already has an exemption for emergency projects needed for public health or safety. As written, this measure exempts DOT from permitting for "structures and improvements relating to airports are necessary to comply with" FAA regulations. It could be used to justify any structure based on broad FAA language encouraging optimal airport operations. At the very least, it should have been amended (as suggested by the Sierra Club) to require official notice from the FAA of a failure to meet a specific regulation.
HB 2250 - Emergency Environmental Workforce
This bill robs Peter to pay Paul. It takes funding from a chronically underfunded agency, DLNR, to pay for the emergency hiring of employees to do watershed restoration work. Our objection is solely focused on the source of funding. Destroying programs intended to protect natural resources -- including the resulting loss of staff and matching federal funds -- means there would be no net benefit from this bill. If this bill were to advance, it should identify a new source of funding and ensure resources are provided to ensure the newly-hired employees have the tools and management needed to work.
HB 2417 - Solar Tax Credit Reduction
While revisions to the solar tax credit may be reasonable -- and discussions are ongoing -- the current measure would catastrophically impact the renewable energy business.
Drastically cutting the clean energy tax credits would be pennywise and pound foolish. Last year, 15% of the construction jobs in the state came from the solar industry. During a down economy, why hinder one of the few economic bright spots? Moreover, for each installation of a solar water heater, photovoltaic, and wind system, we helped plug the billions of dollars that are funneled out of our island economy on an annual basis.
Limiting the number of systems that are eligible for the tax credit essentially caps the allowable credit regardless of the size of the system. Such a system would discriminate against homeowners -- such as a larger family living in Laie -- that are investing in a larger system based on their needs.