E&C Republican Leaders Open Investigation into Hawaiian Electric Following Deadly Maui Fires
News Release from House Energy and Commerce Committee, August 30, 2023
Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee Chair Jeff Duncan (R-SC), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) sent a letter to Hawaiian Electric seeking information regarding the role of electric infrastructure in the August fires that broke out on the island of Maui and in the town of Lahaina. Letters were also sent to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission and the Hawai’i State Energy Office.
“Our hearts are with the people of Maui as they confront immense grief, sadness, and despair, especially for those who are still searching for their missing loved ones. The pain is unimaginable and the road to recovery is long. We must come to a complete understanding of how this disaster started to ensure Hawaii and other states are prepared to prevent and stop other deadly wildfires.”[…]
“In our capacity as Chairs of the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives and its respective energy policy and oversight subcommittees, we are empowered to oversee energy supply, reliability of all power, and regulation of energy resources throughout the country. To that end, we seek a fuller understanding of the role, if any, of the electric infrastructure in this tragic event.”
On Tuesday, August 8, 2023, a series of deadly fires broke out on the island of Maui and in the town of Lahaina, resulting in the tragic loss of many lives and the destruction of entire communities.
The fires are the deadliest in modern U.S. history, with the current death toll at over 100 lives and many hundreds more still missing.
Reported evidence of a downed power line sparking dry grass in Lahaina indicates that Hawaiian Electric equipment may have contributed to the fires.
Information is also coming to light about actions taken – or not taken – by Hawaiian Electric to harden and modernize the electric grid of Maui in response to the growing risk of wildfires in recent years.
Chairs Rodgers, Duncan, and Griffith asked Hawaiian Electric to respond to the following requests for information:
What is your understanding of the sequence of events and actions on August 8, 2023, involving the Lahaina fire, including actions taken by Hawaiian Electric?
Please describe all actions taken by Hawaiian Electric to address fire risks to the electric grid on Maui prior to August 8, 2023 (going back through 2013).
Please describe all actions taken by Hawaiian Electric, Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, Hawai’i State Energy Office and any other applicable entities to mitigate invasive grasses and other vegetation on the island of Maui, in order to prevent or minimize fire risks.
Please provide Hawaiian Electric spending on Maui for the past ten years, including, but not limited to, specific spending for utility infrastructure, for energy generation, to meet Hawaii’s renewable energy mandates, and to address identified fire risks.
What Hawaiian Electric actions regarding fire risks to the Maui electric grid are pending before the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission? What is the status of those actions?
Has the Hawai’i State Energy Office been involved in grid modernization, hardening, and resilience efforts by Hawaiian Electric? If yes, please describe those efforts.
In July 2021, the Maui county government assessed and issued a report on the growing threat of fire to the island. Did the report involve any recommendations regarding the electric grid? If yes, what is the status of implementing those recommendations?
What orders has the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission issued, or actions taken, since 2018, to address fire risks to the electric grid on Maui?
What actions did Hawaiian Electric take after the Maui fires on August 8, 2023, relating to the removal of any equipment, including but not limited to, damaged power lines and poles?
Did Hawaiian Electric, Hawaii Public Utilities Commission, and/or the Hawai’i State Energy Office receive any funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 or the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022? If so, please provide the amount of money, the program under which the funding was awarded, and the type of funding (grant, loan, etc.).
CLICK HERE to read the full letter.
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