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Environmental Caucus priorities include emissions reduction, sustainable ag, Red Hill

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Pacific Biodiesel sunflower crop. PC: file Maui Now image.

The Hawaiʻi State Legislature’s Environmental Legislative Caucus is entering its third year with policy proposals that aim to address the state’s pressing environmental issues.

The package includes an amendment to the State Constitution’s Bill of Rights to include:

  • The right to a clean and healthy environment.
  • Implementation of cost-effective energy efficiency measures for state facilities.
  • Updated decarbonization goals.
  • Soil health initiatives aligned with regenerative agriculture.
  • Cesspool conversion requirements and related tax credits.
  • Green fees to be paid by visitors to fund programs and services related to conservation, natural resource protection, and management for state parks and trails.
  • Establishment of the Hawaiʻi agriculture and forest carbon positive incentive program.
  • Requirements to provide emergency medical and rehabilitation services for native wildlife affected by activities undertaken in habitat conservation areas.
  • A carbon fee and dividend program.
  • A resolution regarding the ongoing Red Hill fuel leak situation.

“The climate crisis is one of Hawaiʻi’s most pressing issues, and the clock is ticking for Hawaiʻi to take bold action,” said Rep. Nicole E. Lowen (Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Kalaoa, Honokōhau), Co-Chair of the Environmental Caucus. “The bills in this package propose solutions to reduce our carbon footprint, protect Hawaiʻi’s natural resources, and improve the quality of life for residents. This package is a collaborative effort and builds from the work and priorities set forth by the Majority Caucus.”

Sen. Mike Gabbard (Kapolei, Makakilo, portions of ʻEwa, Kalaeloa, Waipahu), Co-Chair of the Environmental Caucus, said “Hawaiʻi is in a unique position to set the standard for environmental legislation. The green amendment, if adopted, would provide a firm foundation to push for more environmental and climate action in the future. The two bills relating to regenerative agriculture will ensure that, as we work to diversify our economy away from tourism, we do so with the environment in mind. The coronavirus pandemic has emphasized the need to diversify Hawaiʻi’s economy to decrease our reliance on the tourism industry. Increasing soil health and supporting local agriculture is one way that we can do that.”

One of the supported bills hopes to establish a carbon fee on fossil fuels which would return the money generated to Hawaiʻi residents. “Dozens of eminent economists have endorsed a policy that taxes carbon and returns revenues to taxpayers,” said Sen. Karl Rhoads (Dowsett Highlands, Pu‘unui, Nu‘uanu, Pacific Heights, Pauoa, Punchbowl, Pālama, Liliha, Iwilei, Chinatown, and Downtown). “A recent study by the University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization on how this carbon tax and dividend policy would affect Hawaiʻi shows that it would reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, while financially benefiting most Hawaiʻi households. Low-income households would experience the greatest financial benefit.”

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A resolution which urges the United States Navy to decommission and prepare remediation efforts for the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility is also on the ELC’s priority list. “The Red Hill facility sits over the ground aquifer which provides almost all of Oʻahu’s drinking water. In the next five years, there is an estimated 80% chance of another leak occurring,” said Rep. Sonny Ganaden (Kalihi Kai, Sand Island, Hickam, Pearl Harbor, Ford Island, and Hālawa Valley Estate). “We must take immediate action. It simply cannot be overstated how important water is for us here on the islands and it is our kuleana to protect it.”

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The 2022 Environmental Legislative Caucus Bill Package includes the following measures:

  • Decarbonization goals

This bill will update the state’s decarbonization goals by requiring an economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 70% over 2005 levels by 2030 and will direct the Hawaiʻi State Energy office to analyze pathways and develop recommendations for achieving this goal.

  • Green Amendment

This bill will add a provision to the Bill of Rights section of the constitution to recognize and protect the rights of all people to pure water, clean air, a stable climate, and healthy environment.

  • Soil Health Initiative
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This bill will promote agricultural practices that improve soil health. Farmers that adopt these practices will sequester more carbon, increase water infiltration, improve wildlife and pollinator habitat – all while harvesting better profits and often better yields.

  • Green Fees

This measure will establish fees, in the form of a non-resident environmental use license, for those visiting Hawaiʻi to use public beaches, parks, and trails. Money collected from this fee will be used to fund workforce programs and services in the areas of conservation, natural resource protection, and management of state parks and trails.

  • Energy Efficiency

This measure will require state facilities to implement cost-effective energy efficiency measures and require that the construction of all new state buildings incorporate energy and water efficiency into the design and use building materials that reduce the carbon footprint of the project.

  • Red Hill (resolution)

This resolution is requesting the United States Navy to prepare a plan to decommission the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, store its fuel safely to avoid contamination, and establish a new water treatment facility.

  • Cesspool Conversion

This bill will require cesspool conversion at the point of sale of a property and establishes a tax credit for cesspool conversions to help offset the cost.

  • Habitat Conservation

This bill requires that activities with a high likelihood of causing injury or death to protected wildlife develop habitat conservation plans to provide for the care and rehabilitation of wildlife that are injured by or within the project area.

  • Carbon positive incentive program

This measure establishes the Hawaiʻi agriculture and forest carbon positive incentive program. This will keep forests and working agricultural lands intact. This will also provide incentives for farmers to adopt practices that sequester carbon while supporting local agriculture.

  • Carbon Pricing

This measure establishes a price per metric ton of carbon, erecting a market-based mechanism for reducing the consumption of fossil fuels. The revenue generated will be returned to Hawaiʻi residents in the form of a dividend or tax credit.

Nineteen representatives and fourteen senators are members of the Environmental Legislative Caucus:

Representatives include Nicole E. Lowen (Co-Chair), Patrick Pihana Branco, Sonny Ganaden, Troy N. Hashimoto, Linda Ichiyama, Jeanne Kapela, Bertrand Kobayashi, Matthew S. LoPresti, Lisa Marten, Angus L.K. McKelvey, Nadine K. Nakamura, Takashi Ohno, Amy A. Perruso, Sean Quinlan, Adrian K. Tam, David A. Tarnas, Chris Todd, Tina Wildberger, and Justin H. Woodson.

Senators include Mike Gabbard (Co-Chair), Laura Acasio, Rosalyn H. Baker, Stanley Chang, Lynn DeCoite, Donovan M. Dela Cruz, Les Ihara, Jr., Dru Mamo Kanuha, Gilbert S.C. Keith-Agaran, Jarrett Keohokalole, Chris Lee, Karl Rhoads, Gil Riviere, Joy A. San Buenaventura.

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