Moody's Downgrade: Is Ige's LNG Edict a Poison Pill Defense?
Excise Taxes: Hawaii Ranks #5
Federal Judge Blocks Federal Grab for Control of Waterways
Marcia Tagavilla Appointed Executive Director of Hawaii GOP
Hawaii Supreme Court Preparing Excuses to Reject Telescope
KITV: ...Justices of the court fired off an array of questions directed at representation for telescope backers at UH Hilo and the State.
The primary issue at hand was why a permit was issued to begin construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope despite written appeals by the opposition.
Opponents say the University of Hawaii Board didn't hold a contested case hearing in order to expedite the building of the TMT. The Justices say they will take everything under advisement.
A timetable for the final decision has not been decided.... (but the timing will be political, for sure) ....
read ... How to give OHA Money for This
Hallmark of the Ige administration: the lack of an explanation
Borreca: ...Hawaii has to think about LNG because we make about 80 percent of our electricity by burning oil to run generators. It is inefficient, polluting and wildly expensive. Hawaiian Electric, whether owned by Hawaiian Electric Industries or Florida-based NextEra Energy, has been planning to replace the oil-fired generators with LNG-powered plants because LNG is cheaper and the turbines are in need of millions of dollars in EPA-required upgrades.
LNG was supposed to be the so-called “bridge fuel” to move Hawaii to energy independence. If LNG is out, critics now say, what precisely does Ige expect to use to turn the generators?
“We are talking a total energy system transformation to be done in the most affordable way possible. While we need to move on to an integrated systems approach, the governor and his advisers are stuck in linear thinking — we need leadership, collaboration, cooperation and action, not uninformed proclamations,” said Morita.
Others, such as the left- leaning news magazine, The Nation, all but declared Ige a national hero.
“Ige’s decisive and ambitious energy vision is making Hawaii into the world’s most important laboratory for humankind’s fight against climate change,” read The Nation’s account of the Waikiki conference.
Calling it a “sanity check,” Earthjustice attorney Isaac Moriwake said on behalf of the Sierra Club and Earthjustice that “HECO and NextEra want to make a quick buck off of huge LNG investments and get us hooked on another imported fossil fuel.”
What is becoming the hallmark of the Ige administration is the lack of an explanation, the backup detail, the follow-through and community outreach needed to sell any of the new governor’s plans....
read ... Ige’s opposition to LNG needs more explanation
Ige's LNG Decision Will Lead to Rate Hikes
SA: ...drawing a line in the sand against LNG seems imprudent, especially with Hawaii’s extraordinarily high electricity costs.
Ige ignored the real possibility that LNG can be a cheaper, cleaner alternative to oil, resulting in substantial savings for Hawaii ratepayers, who endure the highest retail electric costs in the nation. These costs ripple through the economy, affecting everything from the price of goods to schoolchildren sweltering in 90-degree classrooms with no air conditioning. Keeping electric bills down should be as important to the governor as advancing renewable energy.
He rejected the use of LNG as a firm “bridge” fuel that can keep electricity costs and service stable while the state works toward its unprecedented renewable-energy goal.
He didn’t account for updated Environmental Protection Agency standards requiring HECO to adjust emissions from its power plants — which HECO estimates could cost customers $100 million a year using a different mix of fuel oils rather than LNG.
And he glossed over the substantial economic and technical uncertainties that still exist around renewables. Just last week, Moody’s downgraded Hawaiian Electric Industries’ and HECO’s ratings outlook from stable to negative “due to concerns about the execution risk inherent in transforming its oil-dominated generation base to renewables.”....
read ... LNG still makes sense as ‘bridge fuel’
Hawaii electricity cost drop 23 percent after oil price fall
B: “Hawaii’s petroleum-heavy bulk power system has benefited greatly from the large fall in world oil prices,” the EIA said in a monthly electricity report. June marked “the sixth month in row the state had the largest year-over-year drop.”
Hawaii still has the highest power costs in the country, though the gap is narrowing. The EIA estimated that retail revenues, a proxy for prices consumers pay, fell to 26.46 cents per kilowatt-hour in June from 34.46 cents the same time last year. By contrast, costs in Connecticut, now second highest in the U.S., rose 9 percent to 18.08 cents. The U.S. average is 10.64 cents.
read ... Hawaii electricity cost drop 23 percent after oil price fall
North Shore Unanimously Rejects sea wind farm
SA: Nearly 100 Oahu residents gathered to listen to a developer make his case for 51 wind turbines to be moored in the ocean 12 miles northwest of Kaena Point....
Blake McElheny, a Pupukea resident, said he supports renewable energy but felt that the North Shore community has been unfairly satisfying the energy demands of the entire island by hosting large-scale renewable energy projects.
“If you look at energy consumption on Oahu, w e are actually a net producer of energy,” McElheny said. “None of it goes directly to the homes. It is kind of adding insult to injury in a way. We are producing it, and it is not going to the homes.”
There are two wind farms on the North Shore, both owned by Boston-based First Wind. The 69-megawatt Kawailoa Wind project northeast of Haleiwa was completed in November 2012. The 30-megawatt Kahuku Wind farm was completed in March 2011. There is a third 24-megawatt wind project planned to be built on the North Shore. It will be located in Kahuku. The project is owned by Na Pua Makani Power Partners, a subsidiary of a Southern California wind energy development company, Champlin/GEI Wind Holdings LLC.
The North Shore Neighborhood Board voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose the leasing of 10,000 acres of ocean for offshore windmills....
Background: Rusting Windfarm Junk off Waikiki: Europe's Disaster Coming to Hawaiian Waters
read ... Resistance is not Futile
Unfunded Liabilities: Billion Down, Ten Billion to go
SA: And despite that progress being made on pre-paying public workers’ retirement benefits, the worrisome issue of the unfunded liability for public employees’ health benefits will be around for many years to come. The combined state, city and counties’ unfunded liability for health benefits for future retirees was estimated in 2013 to be $11 billion.
For the Hawaii health fund to finally accumulate $1 billion in reserves for future obligations “is not huge percentage-wise, but I think it is is a good start,” Mizuno said. “Compared to where we were four years ago at $150 million or so, to $1 billion, that’s a lot.”
State lawmakers passed a law in 2013 requiring the state and counties to make increasing annual payments into the trust fund to pile up reserves that will be used to pay for health coverage for future retirees. For example, the minimum annual required state contribution into the fund for fiscal year 2015 was $83 million, and for fiscal year 2016 is $163.6 million, Mizuno said.
Known as Act 268, the new law established a schedule that is supposed to pay down the unfunded obligations for retirees’ future health coverage over the next three decades....
Under Act 268, the increasing annual state and county payments to reduce the unfunded liability are expected to climb over the next several years to $543 million in 2019. At the same time, the state and counties will also have to fork over another $600 million in 2019 to cover the cost of current health benefits for public workers and retirees.
That means the state and counties’ contributions for current and future health benefits is projected to top $1.14 billion in 2019 alone. That might sound like a budget-busting number, but Luke said that cost has been factored into the state’s long-term financial plan for the years ahead.
“I think as long as David (Ige) is governor, I think he has no intention of reversing what he and I worked on, and I have no intention of breaking that commitment,” said Luke (D, Punchbowl-Pauoa-Nuuanu). “It’s something that we have to do.”
read ... Health fund briefly tops $1B but unfunded liability lingers
Hanabusa Postures on $9M Ansaldo Giveaway
SA: ...The $8.7 million Ansaldo claim stems from a nine-month delay in 2012 that barred the firm from starting work while rival Bombardier challenged the award of that contract in court.
At its July 30 meeting, the HART board opted not to vote whether to accept the claim after one of its members, city Department of Transportation Services Director Mike Formby, expressed frustration at not having enough details to cast an informed vote.
“There’s not enough material here for me to even ask informed questions,” Formby said at the July meeting. “I know we’ve asked in the past for more specificity (on change orders), but I just don’t see it.”
At Thursday’s joint meeting of rail’s Finance and Project Oversight committees, HART board member Colleen Hanabusa said the board would defer on the claim again. After the meeting, Hanabusa, who joined the board earlier this summer, said that she’s still looking for more details from rail staff on the claim as it pertains to Ansaldo’s contract.
“I just want to feel very comfortable that when we arrive at a decision that we have looked at everything,” Hanabusa said. “It’s the public’s money. … It’s being able to justify it to the public.”
A challenge, Hanabusa added, is that much of the existing HART staff working on the issue wasn’t with the semiautonomous agency back when Ansaldo’s contract was inked....
read ... Political posturing
Kakaako homeless to be removed from only One Street
HNN: The state's team on homelessness announced today that signs will go up Monday and outreach workers will begin notifying the homeless living on Ilalo Street. Enforcement will begin the day after Labor Day.
Up to 25 people live in that part of Kakaako, the outskirts of the much bigger encampment....
Best Comment: "Whack-a-Mole"
read ... Sweeps
OHA Still Hoping to Score Megabucks off Homelessness Crisis
SA: ...State and city officials will again meet this week with representatives from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, a major landowner in Kakaako, which owns the land beneath the Next Step shelter near the encampment.
OHA also owns an adjacent makai lot and previously told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that a second shelter on its makai lot could theoretically house everyone in the Kakaako encampment while separating the chronic homeless from homeless families....
read ... Homelessness is Profitable
Soft on Crime: 22 Priors, Out on the Street, Stabs Another
SA: An Oahu grand jury Tuesday indicted a 56-year-old homeless man, who has a history of felony convictions dating back to the 1980s, in connection with a stabbing last month.
Anh Bui was indicted on first-degree assault after he allegedly stabbed Viet Nguyen, 39, near Tiana Bar on North Nimitz Highway on July 29. The incident occurred at 2:10 a.m....
Bui, who has 19 aliases listed in his criminal record, has a lengthy history with 22 convictions, including six felonies dating back to 1988, according to the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center. His felony convictions include theft, criminal property damage and drug possession.
read ... Predators, not Victims
Honolulu Is the Nation’s Most Expensive City for Singles
CB: Single people across the U.S. mainland who plan on moving to Honolulu be warned: The Hawaii capital is the most expensive city in America for singles.
That is the conclusion of the Economic Policy Institute’s 2015 cost of living calculator, which adds up the price of a “secure yet modest” quality of life. Referred to as the “family budget calculator,” the institute has added singles to the mix after receiving requests from some of that fast-growing demographic.
The calculator takes into account a wide array of living costs, from health care and groceries to transportation, rent and others in 618 metropolitan and rural areas around the country. For people with children, the costs include things like child care and day care.
A single person with no children, according to the calculator, needs $46,308 for a modest but comfortable life in Honolulu.
Life doesn’t get any cheaper for couples or families. A couple in Honolulu needs $58,398. Parenting drives up costs substantially. For partners with a child, the cost leaps to $79,046. A second child means that the couple needs $94,092 for their modest life, while a third child drives the price up to $121,410....
read ... Expensive
Kauai: Influx of Mainland Progressives Causes Inequality
SA: ...For Youn, Kauai is no longer a place where you can confidently call over the fence to ask any neighbor if you can pick lychee. Now it’s more common to buy lychee at a pricey farmers market.
“The social fabric has changed. We no longer have that tight-knit community,” Youn said.
Something about the parking lot of the Lihue Walmart serves as a metaphor for the community’s troubles. “It drives me nuts,” Youn said. “The shopping carts are all over the place. People take the carts out of the store, take their stuff to the car and just leave the carts wherever.”
The chaos in the parking lot is symbolic of a lack of responsibility, of caring for the next person, of respect for order....
What she found when she returned to the new Kauai — where the ultrarich live behind gates and the homeless population is so pervasive that there’s a permanent encampment at the County Building — was that many families in the middle have to work incredibly hard to afford to live on the island....
SA: Long ago, life in ‘the camp’ felt like nothing was lacking
read ... 60s Slogan Sex Drugs and Inequality
With Cane Smoke Suit Looming, HC&S Seeks to Eliminate Requirement to Provide 'Firm Power' to MECO
MN: The current power purchase agreement calls for HC&S to provide Maui Electric with 8 to 12 megawatts of firm power depending on the day and time, said MECO spokeswoman Kau'i Awai-Dickson. An Aug. 12 filing by Jeffery Ono, executive director of the Division of Consumer Advocacy, provides further insight, noting that HC&S currently is providing MECO with 8 MW of firm power after the sugar plantation exercised a provision in March 2014 to reduce its firm power obligation from 12 MW. (Firm power refers to electricity that is available 24 hours a day.)
The proposed agreement, which must be approved by the PUC, eliminates the firm power obligation by HC&S and allows MECO to request up to 4 MW of scheduled energy during months when the need for power is anticipated and to be automatically provided with as much as 16 MW of immediate emergency power. (Translation: If HC&S shuts down, they won't have to buy electricity from somebody to resell to MECO at a loss.)
MECO's minimum power purchase obligation would be eliminated, Ono said in the filing. The current agreement calls for MECO to purchase as much 50,000 MW hours of power from HC&S per contract year.
The proposed change in pricing structure delinks the power sales price from the cost of oil, which Ono said should save MECO and its consumers money. The proposed agreement allows Maui Electric to purchase power for a fixed nonescalating price rather than tying it to the price of oil and MECO's "avoided cost."
read ... Preparing to Shut Down
Civil Beat: Lets Find New and Amazing Ways to Stick it to Fishermen and Consumers
CB: The 2015 U.S. limit of 3,554 metric tons — about 7 percent lower than last year — was set long ago by international agreement of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, which includes 26 member nations from east and southeast Asia to the United States.
Member nations agreed to substantial reductions, many of them larger in raw numbers (BUT SMALLER IN PERCENTAGE) than the cuts to the U.S. limit, to help brood stocks recover and enhance long-term sustainability of the bigeye satisfy the greenies.
Officials with the National Marine Fisheries Service are preparing regulations that would allow Hawaii fishers to resume catching bigeye, but to attribute their catch to one of three U.S. territories in the Pacific — Guam, the Northern Marianna Islands and Samoa. That would have the net effect of adding 3,000 metric tons to Hawaii’s limit, nearly doubling it. (But we at Civil Beat are against this.)
The environmental group Earthjustice is strongly opposed to the fisheries service’s unilateral rules change, and sued NMFS and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in U.S. federal district court over a similar rules revision last year. A decision in that case is expected late next month. (Translation: We're gonna git you one way or the other.)
read ... Yet Another Imaginary Environmental 'Shortage' used to Justify Destroying Fishing Industry