Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 3439

Ka`u News Briefs Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hawai`i County's law banning open-air cultivation of GMOs is being challenged in federal court. Photo by Julia Neal
HAWAI`I COUNTY’S LAW RESTRICTING THE USE of genetically modified crops is the subject of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court. According to Tom Callis, of West Hawai`i Today, plaintiffs include organizations representing Big Island nurseries, papaya and banana growers and cattle ranchers. They argue that the ban on most modified crops “puts the county in conflict with federal and state laws in addition to the science of biotechnology.”
State Ag Board member Richard Ha is one of several plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit
challenging Hawai`i County's ban on GMOs.
      The lawsuit says the county’s ban is “backed by no findings or evidence that (genetically engineered) crops are in any way harmful, or in any way endanger the local environment.”
      The plaintiffs, including Hawai`i Agriculture Board member and farmer Richard Ha, say the county’s Bill 113 prevents them from using modified crops approved by the federal government and disease-resistant crops now under development, according to Callis. 
      Regarding the county law’s use of the precautionary principle, in which “the burden of proof is on the promoter of the technology to prove that the technology is safe,” the lawsuit argues those burdens are already met through the federal regulatory process, including oversight by U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency.
      “In short, using the ‘precautionary principle’ as its purported predicate, Bill 113 puts the county in direct conflict with determinations made after careful consideration by expert federal agencies, and purports to outlaw agricultural activities that the federal government has specially authorized after performing a thorough scientific review,” the lawsuit says.
      See hawaiitribune-herald.com.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Mayor Billy Kenoi says he will not accept a raise.
HAWAI`I COUNTY SALARY COMMISSION IS PLANNING to raise salaries of several county officials, including the mayor and County Council members. Although he has said he does not want a raise, Mayor Billy Kenoi’s salary would increase 20.9 percent. Kenoi told Nancy Cook Lauer, of West Hawai`i Today, that he “would work with the Finance Department and the Human Resources Department to ensure the money is donated to the United Way.” 
      Under the plan, County Council members’ salaries would increase by 8.3 percent raise, and the council chair would get an 11.5 percent raise.
      While the raises are not in the budget recently approved by County Council, Finance Director Nancy Crawford said an account for compensation adjustment could cover the increases, according to Cook Lauer.
      Hawai`i County Council has the lowest paid council members in the state, according to findings of a three-member Salary Commission subcommittee that reviewed the county budget and salaries in other counties.
      The county officials have not had salary adjustments in almost a decade, Cook Lauer reports, and the commission “would be derelict in its duties if it didn’t give them now,” commission members told her.
      The raises would go into effect July 1 after being approved by the Salary Commission at its meeting on July 8.
      See westhawaiitoday.com.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.  

GOV. NEIL ABERCROMBIE, ATTORNEY GENERAL DAVID LOUIE and Finance Director Kalbert Young have announced a plan to address an inconsistency in the amount of approximately $444 million between the budget bill and the bond authorization bill passed by the Legislature that is preventing each bill from being signed into law.
Hawai`i Attorney General David Louie
      The Department of the Attorney General and the Department of Budget and Finance advised the governor that the projects authorized in the Budget Bill exceed the amount certified in the Bond Declaration Bill.
      “Due to legal issues, I have advised the governor that he would not be able to sign the executive supplemental budget bill for fiscal year 2015 in its current form,” Louie said. “In addition, once the budget bill is reconciled, the Bond Declaration Bill could be signed no earlier than July 1, 2014.”
      The Department of Budget and Finance reviewed the appropriations and declaration bills and identified discrepancies in the areas of state educational facilities improvement authorizations, the Judiciary budget, stand-alone appropriation bills and lapsed projects.
      Abercrombie’s proposed solution would temporarily reduce the general obligation bond appropriation of SEFI projects through a line-item reduction in the budget bill. This would be predicated on the need that the Legislature make whole the amount reduced from the SEFI authorization when it reconvenes in regular session in January 2015.
      The DOE confirmed that it will plan to minimize impacts on projects already in the queue. 
      “The proposed solution is the most efficient path to resolving this situation without the need for any additional costs to the taxpayer,” Abercrombie said. “I have consulted with the Speaker of the House, Senate President and the Department of Education. Working together, we believe we can enter the new fiscal year with a functional budget.”
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

HAWAI`I DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM has filed applications with the state Public Utilities Commission seeking approval to move forward with the Abercrombie Administration’s Green Energy Market Securitization program, which will make solar panels and other clean energy improvements more accessible and affordable to Hawai`i consumers.
The state wants to make solar panels more accessible and affordable
to Hawai`i consumers. Photo from Revolusun
      GEMS is designed to help meet the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency goals by using public dollars to mobilize private-sector capital in a way that stimulates the growth of Hawai`i’s clean energy economy. It represents a market-based approach to bringing clean energy into reach for more utility ratepayers, with focus on underserved markets such as low- and moderate-income homeowners, renters and nonprofits.
      “While solar PV has grown exponentially, there is a market gap of consumers who cannot afford the high upfront costs or cannot qualify for loans. The GEMS program will open up access to solar PV for these market segments,” DBEDT Director Richard Lim said. “This innovative financing approach leverages public dollars to achieve a long-term, sustainable financing solution to support clean energy project development.”
      Mark Glick, administrator of the state Energy Office, said the GEMS program is a powerful tool in the state’s push to meet its clean energy goals. “GEMS is an example of the state Energy Office focus on high-impact, creative solutions in affordable financing that have the flexibility for broad application in Hawai`i’s growing clean energy sector,” Glick said.
      The first filing is for a financing order to issue up to $150 million in Green Infrastructure Bonds and to authorize a Green Infrastructure Fee to secure the bonds. The second filing is for an order to create a Green Infrastructure Loan Program that would use the bond proceeds to provide alternative low-cost financing for solar photovoltaic systems and other eligible clean energy technologies. GEMS will be administered at little or no cost to ratepayers.
Pottery by Chiu Leong is included in
this year's Volcano Pottery Sale.
Image from teahawaii.com
      Proceeds from the bond issuance will be placed in a Green Infrastructure Special Fund that can be used alone or in combination with private capital to provide financing to consumers through “deployment partners,” such as local financial institutions, solar financiers and energy lenders. Consumers will be able to repay the loans over time with the savings on their electric bills. The fund initially will be used to support the installation of solar PV systems and will later be expanded to cover a variety of eligible clean energy technologies, energy storage, smart modules, monitoring devices and other technology to support the interconnection of PV systems to the grid.
      The GEMS bonds will be secured by a Green Infrastructure Fee. The fee will be assessed on all electric utility ratepayer bills to ensure the bonds achieve the highest possible credit ratings, and thus lowering the amount of the fee, which is expected to be less than $2 a month for residential customers. As proposed in the financing order application, the Public Benefits Fee that is currently on electric utility customer bills will be reduced to offset the cost of the Green Infrastructure Fee, resulting in little or no impact to ratepayers.
      The PUC’s issuance of financing and program orders will allow the program to finalize guidelines relating to targeted customers, qualifying technologies, qualifying deployment partners and other program details. Financing products are expected to be available to customers by this November.
      To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.  

THE SIXTH ANNUAL VOLCANO POTTERY SALE takes place this Friday and Saturday. Fifteen Hawai`i Island potters participate on Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Volcano Art Center’s Niaulani Campus in Volcano Village.
      For more information, see ryhpottery.com/volcano_pottery_sale or call Ron Hanatani at 985-8530.

KILAUEA MILITARY CAMP’S LAVA LOUNGE in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park hosts a “Like Totally 80s Party” Friday at 7 p.m. Participants put on their best “Totally Awesome” costume and dance to the tunes of DJ Tiki. No cover charge. Open to authorized patrons and sponsored guests. Park entrance fees apply.
      Call 967-8371 for more information.


See kaucalendar.com/Directory2014.
Click at bottom right to turn pages.

Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 3439