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Monday, April 18, 2022
SB2070: $50M for ‘thinly veiled scam’?
By Andrew Walden @ 11:02 PM :: 3108 Views :: Environment, Ethics, Agriculture

by Andrew Walden

When a couple of penny-stock touts, one of whom is listed in the Panama Papers Offshore Leaks Database, team up to sell timber futures and carbon credits under the name ‘Hawaii Legacy Hardwoods’ (HLH) -- what does the Legislature do? 

SB2070 offers the affiliated Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative (HLRI) a $50M ‘Special Purpose Revenue Bond’.

If sleaze was fertilizer, HLH wouldn’t need a $50M loan. 

Maybe it helps that HLH received a 2011 endorsement by one-term-Governor Neil Abercrombie?  Or one HLRI frontman is California hotel developer and former Hawaii State Senator Francis A Wong, who shows up repeatedly in ‘Land and Power in Hawaii?’  Or that HLH headquarters was evicted from a home owned by disbarred shyster, and John Waihee associate, Gary V Dubin, which would later become infamous as the site of the April, 2021, police shooting of Lindani Myeni?  Or that HLH--which owns none of the land upon which it allegedly plants trees--has spent years in court battling ranch owners and former employees?

Not everybody is in agreement. 

Testimony from Deborah Ward informs Senators, January 31, 2022:

“Those of us who have watched this company for years see the whole operation as a thinly veiled scam to generate investment money, enjoy the proceeds, and make virtually no impact on the environment of Hawaii, while collecting over $100 per seedling tree in exchange for a digital certificate.”

Sherry Pollack, of 350Hawaii.org explains:

“The State has already studied the feasibility and implications for establishing a carbon offset program in Hawaii. Findings from this study strongly recommended against such a pursuit. Furthermore, carbon offset schemes are just that, schemes that claim to compensate for emissions with no cost to the climate – they don’t actually do that, they are an accounting trick. Offsetting simply allows companies like airlines to avoid taking meaningful action on their carbon emissions and to continue with their unsustainable behavior while shifting their responsibility for the climate onto the consumer.”

Pollack’s testimony is seconded by Mary Alice Evans Director, Office of Planning and Sustainable Development April 6, 2022:

“OPSD published the Feasibility and Implications of Establishing a Carbon Offset Program in the State of Hawai‘i in December 2019, strongly recommending against State’s establishment of a Carbon Offset Program administered by the State Government. The feasibility analysis noted that: 1. It is unlikely that the State of Hawai‘i would generate significant revenue through the production of offsets, and 2. Any trading of offset credits produced within Hawai‘i would be limited by the State’s Zero Emissions Clean Economy target (p.67).”

The same schemers operating as ‘Hawaii Legacy Reforestation Initiative’ scooped up a $130,000 Grant in Aid from the 2017 Legislative session.

Will they really get anything from SB2070?  Only the Conference Committee knows for sure. SB2070’s $50M loan guarantee amount is blanked out.  The only reference to $50M is in HLH testimony.  And House and Senate versions both state: “The authorization to issue special purpose revenue bonds under this Act shall lapse on June 30, 2027.” 

Why is this date significant? 

Craig K. Hirai Director, Department of Budget and Finance testified March 15, 2022:

“…the Department would like to note that House Bill No. 1829, H.D. 2, specifies that the entire allocation of the state bond ceiling cap shall be used for housing related projects for the next six years provided that the allocations authorized, but not issued before July 1, 2022 shall not be affected. An authorization to issue a SPRB does not allocate the state bond ceiling. The allocation of the state bond ceiling is made at the closing of the bonds. Since the bill specifies that the entire state bond ceiling shall be used for housing related projects, all authorized and not issued SPRBs subject to the bond ceiling cap will be prohibited from issuance by the Department for the next six years regardless of the authorization received prior to July 1, 2022.”

HB1829 is also heading for Conference Committee.

Don’t snow a snowman.

---30---

SB2070: Text, Status

HB1829: Text, Status

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