Follow by Email

Friday, February 3, 2017

Life of the Land at the 2017 State Legislature

The view is from the Lanai of the Office of the Attorney General, which wraps almost all of the way around the top floor of the State Office Tower, 235 S. Beretania Street.

The 2016 State Legislature has opened with a total of 2918 bills being introduced, 1317 in the Senate and 1601 in the House. 

Life of the Land has filed testimony on over 15 bills, including issues dealing the usually array of anti-environmental issues such as gutting land use laws, and removing projects from the environmental review process and/or county zoning laws. 

Life of the Land is Hawai`i’s own energy, environmental and community action group advocating for the people and `aina for 47 years. Our mission is to preserve and protect the life of the land through sound energy and land use policies and to promote open government through research, education, advocacy and, when necessary, litigation.

We are supporting monitors being hired by the land use commission, and moving agencies into the 21st century by encouraging electronic record keeping. We are also supporting greater funding to fight invasive species such as Rapid Ohia Death (ROD).

At the beginning of the session a few housekeeping resolutions are filed. Then in March additional resolutions are offered which are discussed during conference committee. The rule is that an agency must follow a concurrent resolution, but may or may not follow a Senate or House resolution.

This year, 104 resolutions have already been filed: 31 House Concurrent Resolutions (HCR), 15 House Resolutions (HR), 47 Senate Concurrent Resolutions (SCR), and 11 Senate Resolutions (SR).

HCR12/HR7 has already passed the House. The resolutions were introduced by House Speaker Souki and former House Speaker Say to designate January 24, 2017 as “Bioenergy Day”. 

House Resolution 14 realigned leadership in the State House Republican Minority Caucus. Rep. Fukumoto spoke out against some of President Trump`s positions. Fukumoto was replaced by Representative Tupola, by a vote of 3-2 with one abstention. Fukumoto is considering leaving the Republican Party.

One bill dealt with the proposal to provide enhanced sentencing for utility meter readers who are attacked while performing their jobs. We testified in favor of uniform laws across all public workers. The IBEW noted that some workers were allegedly attacked for discovering marijuana plants, while others were attacked while seeking to clear trees during Tropical Storm Iselle. Under examination by Legislators, the IBEW was unable to elaborate on either issue.

Likewise, there was a bill to require that two senior staff members of the Public Utilities Commission must file annual financial disclosure statements with the Ethics Commission, but the filings would remain classified. We favor uniformity across agencies. Either the most senior staff of each State agency files or doesn`t file. If filings occur, they should be made public, in part because of transparency and open government, and in part because the Ethics Commission lacks the resources to review practically all of the annually-filed financial disclosure forms.

SB11 would protect homeless individuals from having their personal property taken from a state or county agency without proper documentation procedures and the ability to recovery property from the agency. 

We have been hearing horror stories where personal identification, wallets, and medicine have been confiscated and/or thrown into the garbage during indiscriminate homeless sweeps by the City and County of Honolulu. This is unacceptable. We proposed modifying the bill with a new clause: “Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, it shall be unlawful for any state or county agency to confiscate government-issued identification documents and medicine.”

Representative Lee introduced HB805 on intervenor compensation. Life of the Land noted that a California State Auditor audit of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) intervenor compensation program found that one intervenor had saved California ratepayers $354 million and had received compensation of $784,000, while another intervenor had saved ratepayers $130 million in savings and received an award of $586,000 in compensation. Thus, the payout to these two intervenors were well below a half of one percent of the savings to ratepayers.

The California program also increased intervention by socioeconomically, culturally, and geographically diverse groups.  Hawai`i could benefit from a similar program.

Life of the Land testified on bills dealing with utility merger criteria, and incentive regulation aimed at rewarding the utility for moving more rapidly towards public interest policies. We also testified on a bill requiring greater use of third parties in overseeing renewable energy planning for electric utilities.

Currently around one-fifth of the electricity transmitted and sold by utilities is from renewable energy. But when other energy uses are mixed in, the renewable energy percentage drops to eight percent. 

One bill proposed that ground transportation. like electricity, achieve the 100 percent renewable energy goal by 2045. We proposed benchmarks along the way, similar to electricity. We also favor the same approach for the Gas Company, which is currently exempt from the renewable energy requirement.

A bill was introduced to promote the use of hydrogen. The utilities are unable to use of all the renewable energy that is offered to them, so some of it is wasted, because most power purchase agreements forbid selling power to others. The proposal is that power producers could use excess energy for non-electric purposes, such as making hydrogen.

Life of the Land noted that 95 percent of all hydrogen in the US is made from fossil fuel, so the bill should state that there is a desire to increase the use of renewable hydrogen.

There are several bills that seek to harmonize, or lower to the least standard, existing practices. Working class people are struggling. Some entities are buying planes for the booming, $1.2 billion a month tourism industry. These entities get to purchase airplanes without paying any general excise tax. Therefore, those buying helicopters should also get the same tax breaks, regardless of the profitability of the helicopter industry. We testify against bills that seek to weaken standards and allow tax breaks for booming industries.

This is clearly an environmental issue, as health issues are important. We are currently monitoring a number of bills.

Prisons are for those serving sentences of more than a year. Jail is for short-timers, and those who can`t make bail and are stuck inside. Currently those not convicted who are awaiting trial, the homeless, and the mentally ill compromise the vast majority of those in jail. One approach is to design a better system, and then figure out what should be built. The Department of Public Safety is seeking a top-down, non-community friendly approach where the selection of a new facility is planned and built before any determination is made of what is needed.

Releasing some inmates in paper clothes without money or identification is crazy. A society should be judged on how it treats those at the bottom of the socioeconomic spectrum. Dealing with homelessness, mental issues, and affordable housing up front, will lower total societal costs, and alleviate stresses on the environment, that are currently caused by get touch social policies.

A few bills were introduced that would give preferential rates to lower income ratepayers and to those living in regions with large centralized renewable energy facilities.  Life of the Land supports differentiated rates. Economically challenged individuals should have lower electric rates, while boutiques that try to freeze sidewalks to lure customers into their stores should pay much higher rates.

There are opportunities to go much further, as we noted in our testimony. In the beginning all electricity came from the utility power plant, and radially spread out to end users. That system no longer exists.

Electricity and telecommunications move in multiple ways along a utility`s transmission and distribution grid. Today, 99 percent of the total physical number of all electricity generating stations in the State are rooftop solar systems. In aggregation, on the major islands, rooftop solar output exceeds the utility`s largest single power plant.

Home energy storage systems, smart energy efficiency systems, and demand response mechanisms will allow customers to be compensated for providing frequency and voltage support to the grid.

There are proposals floating around that transform the older cookie-cutter customer approach.

Commercial and Industrial (C&I) customers of HECO, MECO and HELCO can sign up for an Interruptible Load Tariff, whereby a few times a year they are cut off from the grid, in exchange for lower rates year-around. Residential customers should have the same option.

Commercial customers who want higher reliability levels, but who do not want to pay for on-site systems, should pay a premium for added grid-based reliability, under the existing cost-causer principle.

In 1990 the National Regulatory Research Institute (NRRI) published “Reliability Differentiated Pricing of Electricity Service. “It has been suggested that electricity customers be given the choice of opting for different levels of service reliability.  Customers would then subscribe to the level of reliability that best suits them and their processes. Such a choice would unbundle the service.”

"A review of electricity product differentiation" by C.K. Woo et al was published in the journal “Applied Energy” in 2013.  “Product differentiation recognizes that customers have heterogeneous preferences, with varying willingness-to-pay (WTP) for differentiated products. From a customer’s perspective, electricity has several distinct attributes: power quality, level of reliability, time of use (TOU), volume of usage (kWh), maximum demand (kW), and level of environmental impact. A differentiated product can be formed by packaging its non-price attributes at a commensurate price.”

Siripha Junlakarn is a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. “Although different end-users might have different reliability preferences, these preferences are not taken into account in the investment decision made by a utility company.  If the utility can provide differentiated reliability options according to customer preferences, it enables customers to price their reliability options according to their need. … Smart grid technologies, such as distribution automation and advanced metering infrastructure, can effectively manage power outages and provide a differentiation of reliability based on customers’ value of reliability.”

In 2013 the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) published “Resilience in Regulated Utilities” by Miles Keogh and Christina Cody. “Commissions may decide that the smartest approaches to investing in resilience may be those that not only differentiate between classes, but also within classes.”

#      #      #

Monday, December 12, 2016

a simply request


Happy Holidays from Life of the Land, Hawai`i’s own community-driven environmental group! We hope that this holiday season is full of peace and joy for you and all those you love.

Life of the Land has been at the forefront of energy issues in Hawai`i before the issue was “sexy”. The recent Public Utility Commission (PUC) evidentiary hearings on NextEraʻs proposed takeover of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) again distinguished us as a resource for all sectors of our community. 

NextEra’s proposed takeover awakened Hawai`iʻs people and businesses to the importance of our own resources and values. The PUC process took 18 intense months, from December 2014 to July 2016, but the result was well worth it as communities across Hawai`i nei started to realize what we have and what we value most.

NextEra’s proposed takeover of HEI resulted in more groups coming forward to address energy policies, rooftop solar, and climate change. More collaboration occurred by those who worked together to oppose the merger.

In recent months, large numbers of parties in PUC proceedings have signed onto a single document, and where necessary, individual entities file an additional statement. This is a new development, and a positive one.

Life of the Landʻs continuous research is what informs our expertise and understanding of the many issues and threads in the complex tapestry of Hawai`i. This knowledge that has become sought after by students, attorneys, and experts in Hawai`i and across the world. It is always shared graciously. We have participated in and moderated energy panels on other islands sharing our research with communities across our islands.

Life of the Land has and is achieving success in working to get more community voices into energy discussions. We have been meeting with individuals and community groups throughout the state, as well as speaking with and mentoring some Richardson law students.

The amazing connections and relationships with experts that we have been building and that we continue to build have afforded us entrance into technical venues that were once closed to the community. 

Life of the Land is the only community group that has been permitted into PUC rate proceedings. We are gearing up for the HELCO case which involves a proposed rate hike, herbicide and mechanical control of vegetation, requests for ratepayers to pay for botched utility RFPs, and proposed financial incentives and rewards for utility actions.

People all around the world have their eye on Hawai`i. As the most isolated archipelago on the planet, we have the most to gain by creating sound, thoughtful energy policy that will honor our past, serve our present and work for a sustainable future for those yet to be born.

We take hope in the fact that the states are the laboratory of democracy and Hawai`i is seen as one of the leaders in the energy sector. Yet Life of the Land is always mindful that all energy projects, and all development projects, have an impact and that impacts upon our fragile environment must be analyzed in a fair, open, and transparent process. 

Honoring our past and Hawai`i’s rich history, Life of the Land has filed a letter with the Board of Land and Natural Resources opposing the proposed commercialization and destruction of historic elements of Thomas Square in Honolulu citing the rich history of the park … a people’s gathering place, a public square, you might say.

Life of the Land has been able to achieve the results that it has through your continued support of our work. We cannot do this without you. Life of the Land is the leading community energy group and we humbly ask for your support so that we can continue to work on energy and environmental issues to ensure that our communities are treated fairly and responsibly.

Over the next few years we will continue working in collaboration with others to strengthen the progressive movement as a whole, while assuming a leadership role in energy, including more educational efforts to help others understand Hawai`i’s energy issues and environmental landscape. 

Mahalo nui for your support. It is having a terrific impact on Hawai`i and her people!

Aloha `Aina,

Henry Curtis                                                Kat Brady
Executive Director                                        Assistant Executive Director

Life of the Land is a 501c3 charitable organization. Donations are tax-deductible

Board of Directors: David Henkin, Art Mori, Lynette Cruz, Miwa Tamanaha, Anne Sturgis, Carrie Ann Shirota

Life of the Land
P.O. Box 37158
Honolulu, HI  96837-0158


Monday, May 2, 2016

Energy Policy is Cornerstone of Sustainability

The role of energy cannot be understated. 
Both internationally, and in Hawai`i, expenditures on energy account for more than ten percent of all expenditures (Energy $$$ > 10% of GDP). Energy drives commerce and industry. Energy costs are the major financial input for agriculture and moving water. See: Energy Plays Dominant Role in Hawai`i Economy

In addition, energy is the number one causer of health impacts, loss of critical habitat, pollution, and climate change. See: Energy Plays Dominant Role in Threats to Hawai`i Residents & Ecosystems

Life of the Land was founded in February 1970, one month after the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) became law, which required federal Environmental Impact Statements (EISs), and two months before the first Earth Day.

During the 1960s HECO spent money on advertisements encouraging ratepayers to increase their use of electricity. In 1971 HECO asked the Public Utilities Commission for the right to pass the advertising costs onto the shoulders of the ratepayers.
Life of the Land intervened. The Commission ruled in favor of the utility. Life of the Land appealed. The Hawaii Supreme Court reversed the ruling.

Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson (1961-1969) asserted in 1970, “Life of the Land is waging a vigorous fight against polluters in and out of court.”
Wall Street Journal (April 5, 1972. Lead story, p A1): “Lawsuits and lobbying efforts by Life of the Land are forcing the state health department and the administration of Gov. John Burns to devote increasing time to pollution matters.”
In 1972, before the only law school in the State opened its doors to its freshman class, 80 law students applied to intern for the summer. Life of the Land accepted 19 students who joined 14 attorneys.
Life of the Land`s actions led to state and federal court decisions dealing with the right of community groups to appeal cases to the courts.
Hawaii Business News (Cover Story, November 1973): “The remarkable thing about Life of the Land is the fact that it has succeeded as well as it has against such a broad and potent array of opposition.”
Star-Bulletin Editorial (May 13, 1975): “Useful Gadfly. ...Life of the Land fills a near-vacuum in the State in terms of a citizens’ lobby to challenge the establishment’s policy decisions ...particularly in the all-important areas of land use and environmental protect."

Honolulu Star-Bulletin (March 14, 1995): Key leaders left mark on the state during Hawaii’s growth years. “The effect a person can have on a place is immeasurable. Here are the 10 people or organizations who, from 1965 to 1975, helped make Hawaii what it is today.” 

The list contained 6 individuals and 4 organizations: John Burns, Tom Gill, Land Use Commission, George Helm, Dan Inouye, Patsy Mink, Bishop Estate, Unions, Life of the Land, Ah Quon McElrath. 

Honorable Mentioned: Henry Kaiser, Frank Fasi, William S. Richardson court, Myron B. Thompson, Robert Oshiro, George Ariyoshi.

HECO first proposed the Wa`ahila Ridge (Kamoku-Pukele) 138-kV Transmission Line in the early 1970s. The proposed line was finally defeated in 2002. 

The Transmission Line would have gone from the Iolani School area (Date St and Kapiolani Blvd), up Saint Louis Heights and into the mauka region of Palolo.
The fight raged from about 1971 to 2002, and involved new legislation, several Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements, and Conservation District Use Applications. 

In March 1996 Malama O Mānoa and The Outdoor Circle asked Life of the Land to join them in what would amount to the final six year fight.  

During the three decade struggle, over 10,000 residents wrote comments against the proposed line.
Life of the Land has taken a leadership role in energy policy, focusing on the Public Utilities Commission. 

Life of the Land has been an intervenor in 40 Public Utilities Commission regulatory proceedings, and as a non-competitor to HECO, has had access to confidential documents that not all intervenors get to see.
Life of the Land firmly believes that too often problems are examined using silo mentality. Artificial man-made constructs and boundaries are imposed that fail to provide a realistic picture. 

Every energy project has positive and negative economic, environmental, social, cultural, geographic, taxpayer and ratepayer impacts. Every energy project has primary impacts, secondary impacts, cumulative impacts, life cycle impacts, externalities and unintended side-effects.
Life of the Land led efforts to stop the importation of rain forest palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, to get HECO to admit that climate change is real and caused by fossil fuel use, to stop HECO and the Gas Company from importing fracked Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and to oppose invasive renewable energy projects including Big Wind, Inter-island Cables, Aina Koa Pono, Hu Honua, a second wind farm in Kahuku, and the expansion of geothermal in Puna.
Along with other parties, Life of the Land worked on Net Energy Metering, Reliability Standards, Interconnection Issues, and other policy issues.
In January 2016 Life of the Land`s Henry Curtis and Kat Brady were honored with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Lifetime Peacemaker Award for Social Justice Activism from the Church of the Crossroads.
#      #      #

Energy Plays Dominant Role in Hawai`i Economy

Hawai`i's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014 was $76.2 billion.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration updated its Hawai`i Profile on September 17, 2015.

"Hawaii's geographic isolation makes its energy infrastructure unique among the states. In recent years, more than one-tenth of the state's gross domestic product has been spent on energy, most of that for imported crude oil and petroleum products.”

These figures are consistent with international figures.

World energy consumption refers to the total energy used by all of human civilization. Typically measured per year, it involves all energy harnessed from every energy source applied towards humanity's endeavors across every single industrial and technological sector, across every country. … In 2011, expenditures on energy totaled over 6 trillion USD, or about 10% of the world gross domestic product (GDP).”
Energy drives the world economy at $190,000 per second, $600 million per hour, $15 billion per day. A small fraction of this offers plentiful funds to pay speakers, sponsor conferences, underwrite studies and give out awards.
The world economy grew since 2011. In 2015 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that global fossil fuel subsidies are $5.3 trillion/year. This represents 6.5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 
“Just over half the figure is the money governments are forced to spend treating the victims of air pollution and the income lost because of ill health and premature deaths. The figure is higher than a 2013 IMF estimate because new data from the World Health Organisation shows the harm caused by air pollution to be much higher than thought.”


Life of the Land estimated the energy sector as 10 percent or more of the Hawai`i economy. The calculations are crude and are summarized below

During the past decade the State imported about 40 million barrels of petroleum per year. The cost per barrel has ranged from $30 - $145. 

Each barrel is imported by a petroleum refinery. The fuel is processed and sold to middle men (electric and gas utilities and gas stations).

The middle men then sell electricity, gas, gasoline, and diesel to end-users. About a third of the petroleum is refined into jet fuel which might be sold directly or indirectly to airlines. Thus each unit of imported petroleum energy is sold two or three times.

Renewable energy produced by an Independent Power Company is sold to an electric utility which sells the electricity to end-users. Thus it is sold twice. 

Rooftop solar is not sold at all. Even under net energy metering, it is traded with, but not sold to, the utility. The cost of rooftop solar is reflected in the cost to buy and install solar panels.

Vehicles are fueled by gasoline and diesel. Pump prices are volatile.  

The petroleum numbers exclude coal imports, bottled gas, on-site renewable energy installation and production, and the cost to install energy efficiency devices designed to decrease energy bills.

The total amount of money spent on energy in Hawai`i ranges approximately from $7.5-10 billion/year.

Energy is a major cost factor in agriculture and the movement of water. 

Fossil fuel use is the number one global cost factor in health impacts. 

Fossil fuels rank number one globally in producing air, water and land-based pollution and in heating up the planet. See: Energy Plays Dominant Role in Threats to Hawai`i Residents & Ecosystems

Without fossil fuels the First and Second Industrial Revolutions (c. 1750, c. 1870) would never have occurred.

#      #      #

Energy Plays Dominant Role in Threats to Hawai`i Residents & Ecosystems

Fossil Fuel use is a threat to every form of life.  

Honolulu Harbor Oil Tanks

A National Academy of Science Study, conducted at the request of U.S. Congress, analyzed energy-induced health impacts. “Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of EnergyProduction and Use” (2010) found that in the U.S. 20,000 people die prematurely each year from fossil fuel air pollution, and that U.S. health impacts cost $120 billion/year. 

The study excluded health impacts associated with global warming; burning oil for trains, ships and planes; coal mining; and coal byproducts dumped into streams and rivers.

Waiau Oil Spill

A Chevron pipeline ruptured on May 14, 1996, discharging 41,000 gallons of No. 6 bunker fuel oil into Waiawa Stream adjacent to HECO’s Waiau Power Plant.

Being slightly heavier than fresh water, the oil slowly sank through the Waiawa Stream water table, contaminating life forms along its spread and descent.

Being slightly lighter than salt water, when it reached Pearl Harbor, the oil slowly rose through the water column once again killing life forms.

Pools of submerged oil contaminated the ten acre Waiawa Marsh, a restricted wildlife area and home to the state's four endangered species of water birds, the Hawaiian stilt, coot, duck, and the moor hen.

Oil covered approximately 90,000,000 square feet of open water in Pearl Harbor during the first six days after the spill.

Areas impacted included freshwater and saltwater wetlands, shorelines and intertidal areas including mangroves, mudflats, rocky shorelines, sandy beaches, riprap, seawalls and piers.

Regulators estimated that 77,965 linear feet of intertidal habitat was oiled.
The clean-up resulted in the repeated, episodic high-pressure washing of the Pearl Harbor shoreline, which destabilized and eroded shoreline soils. The shoreline continued to emit an oil sheen for more than a month.

This pollution had a devastating impact on egg, larval, juvenile and adult stages of recreationally and commercially valuable finfish, invertebrates, green turtles, and birds.

Initially federal and state regulators estimated that the habitat would take ten years to recover, but later revised estimates upwards to fifteen to twenty years.

Rainforest Biofuel

Palm Oil is principally produced in one area of the world: Indonesia and Malaysia. Just a few years ago Indonesia and Malaysia accounted for 88% of world production and 91% of world trade in palm oil.

The Wall Street Journal ran a front page lead story on the palm oil scandal.

Wild fires were being set in Borneo to clear land for logging and planting of palm oil plantations.

Huge releases of greenhouse gases were being emitted from burning peat soil. In the late 1990s Indonesia was briefly the #1 greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

The Wall Street Journal article also pointed out the environmental destruction, the loss of ecosystems, the displacement of native peoples, and the man made cloud which shrouded the region.

Under international pressure, the palm oil industry adopted 39 weak standards.

Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) proposed importing palm oil from producers who adhered to just six of these standards as long as the producer was working towards “no child labor” and working towards “free, prior and informed consent” of native peoples at the particular plantation where the biofuel would come from, regardless of what the producers did on their other plantations.

Borneo is the third largest island in the world with an area of 287,000 square miles.  Borneo is divided three ways: 73 percent is Indonesian, 26 percent is Malaysian and one percent is the sovereign country of Brunei.

The Borneo rainforest is 140 million years old, making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants, 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of terrestrial mammals, 420 species of resident birds, and 440 freshwater fish species.

The Borneo rainforest is one of the few remaining natural habitats for the endangered orangutan. It is an important refuge for many endemic forest species, including the Borneo elephant, the eastern Sumatran rhinoceros, the Bornean clouded leopard, the Hose's palm civet and the dayak fruit bat.

Borneo has significant cave systems. Clearwater Cave has one of the world's longest underground rivers. Deer Cave is home to over three million bats, with guano accumulated to over 330 feet deep.

Military Oil Spills

The Navy’s Red Hill facility is leaking into the ground near or over the aquifer.

The 20-mile Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants pipeline connected the Air Force`s Wakakalaua Fuel Storage Annex in Wahiawa and Kipapa Gulch Fuel Storage Annex in Waipio with Hickam Air Force Base.

Over a half century timeframe, 18 billion gallons went up, and 14 billion gallons came down. The system is empty. The remaining 4 billion gallons leaked, evaporated, was stolen and/or was an accounting error.

More Oil Spills

Dead oiled birds and tar balls came ashore at Kauai's Barking Sands, Polihale, Nukoli, Fujii, and Kipu Kai beaches in September 1998. The U.S. Coast Guard determined through chemical analysis, that the oil was from a Tesoro hose failure between the Barbers Point shore at the oil/chemical tanker OVERSEAS NEW YORK.

Exxon Houston spilled about 117,000 gallons of oil in March, 1989, threatening beaches on the island of Oahu. Exxon sought to shift damages. Exxon lost in district court, at the Ninth Circuit in 1995, and before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.
Another Tesoro Leak at Barber`s Point occurred in 2001 involving the oil/chemical tanker OVERSEAS CHICAGO.

While in route from Barbers Point to Ulsan, South Korea, the U.S. tank vessel SS OMI YUKON suffered major explosions and fires in the starboard fuel oil storage tanks and engine room. 

The Coast Guard determined that the 1986 accident had two causes: “contamination of the vessel's bunkers with flush oil during bunkering through a subsea pipeline and the absence of a flame screen in the after starboard fuel oil tank vent.

The Hawaiian Patriot was carrying 99,000 of oil from Indonesia to Honolulu. During February 23-24, 1977, the tanker leaked 50,000 tons of oil, caught fire, exploded, burned for hours, and then sank. The oil plume occurred 300 miles west of Hawaii and moved away from the islands. By contrast the Exxon Valdez had only 35,000 tons of oil (11 million gallons or 257,000 barrels).

AES Coal Plant, Campbell Industrial Park


HC&S burned bagasse to generate power for its needs. HC&S wanted to sell surplus power to MECO but MECO needed steady output (firm power). So HC&S added 40,000 tons of coal per year to their bagasse, and sold electricity to MECO as “renewable energy.”

Cane burning and ccoal-bagasse air pollution impacted Maui communities. 

Puna Geothermal Ventures


Tropical Storm Iselle devastated Puna on the night of Thursday, August 7, 2014.

Puna Pono Alliance described the chain of events.

Puna Geothermal Ventures (PGV) and Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) made a commercial decision to keep PGV operating during Tropical Storm Iselle.

It was plainly foreseeable that the storm would damage trees and HELCO transmission lines, as it did, and that PGV would need to shut down on an emergency basis, as it did, and that complications of the storm situation would interfere with any response to the upset condition, as they did.

In fact, electric service was seriously disrupted around much of the Island as storm damage brought down trees and branches and disrupted utility infrastructure on a wide scale. Even ordinary rain storms have caused such damage on a smaller scale.

Civil Defense gave an alert for community members to evacuate if they felt symptoms from PGV's hydrogen sulfide release and dispatched the hazardous materials response team to PGV.

Storm damage to trees and utility lines made the roads dangerous and impassable for the attempted HazMat response, and they turned back before reaching the site. The same conditions made it dangerous and impossible for residents feeling symptoms from PGV's H2S release to evacuate from their homes.

The County but not the State reacted to community concerns and passed geothermal-based health-related ordinances. The 2016 State Legislature proposed stripping the county`s ability to enact health ordinances related to geothermal emissions.

#      #      #

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Birth of Life of the Land

By Henry Curtis

In the spring of 1995 the Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran three Special Sections over a three week period covering four decades of Hawaii. 

In the March 14, 1995 Special Section the paper wrote an article, “Key leaders left mark on the state during Hawaii’s growth years.”

The effect a person can have on a place is immeasurable. Here are the 10 people or organizations who, from 1965 to 1975, helped make Hawaii what it is today.”

Those honorable mentioned but not making the list were such notables as Henry Kaiser, Frank Fasi, William S. Richardson court, Myron B. Thompson, Robert Oshiro and George Ariyoshi.

Their list of key players contained 6 individuals -- John Burns, Tom Gill, George Helm, Dan Inouye, Patsy Mink and Ah Quon McElrath; and 4 organizations -- Land Use Commission, Bishop Estate, Unions and Life of the Land.

Life of the Land was founded in February 1970 and named in September 1970. 

Life of the Land made the top ten list even though the organization existed for less than half of the 1965-75 decade.

Life of the Land burst onto the scene in February 1970, two months before the first Earth Day, by a group of young mothers who were appalled that raw sewage was being dumped in the ocean. 

They went down to Waikiki beach with brochures that asked: Do you know what you are swimming in?

There were no waste water treatment facilities in Hawai`i at that time. This direct action led to the first sewage treatment plant at Sand Island.

Then men joined the organization. They needed a name, a structure, and leaders. The two final names considered were Life of the Land and the Mad Marching Mothers of Manoa.

This was the era of Tony Hodges, Gavin Daws (co-author of Land and Power in Hawai`i) and Sophie Ann Aoki (daughter of Rev. Mitsuo Aoki).

The President's Water Pollution Control Advisory Board Report, Honolulu, Hawaii June 7-10, 1971: “On June 7, the Board made an inspection tour of the Island of Oahu including Pearl Harbor. Pollution problems were viewed from the lookouts at Punchbowl and Nuuanu Pali, and from two Marine Corps heliocopters [sic].

The Board viewed raw sewage being discharged from Honolulu's 50 million-gallon-per-day outfall off Sand Island, a short distance from the Honolulu shoreline and the beaches of Waikiki; sediment and soil erosion problems in Kaneohe Bay; and oil and sewage mixing with silt in Pearl Harbor.”

“On June 8, the Board traveled by plane to Hilo ...The primary pollution problem emanating from the sugar industry is the dumping of mud, silt and cane trash from sugar cane washing operations into the ocean. This is affecting beaches, streams, fishing grounds and coral reefs throughout the State.”

“Mr. Tony Hodges, President, Life of the Land ...stated that the State of Hawaii has not enforced, is not enforcing, and will not enforce the water quality standards, and the standards will not be enforced until the Federal Government intervenes. ...Give citizens the right to sue officials to compel enforcement of anti-pollution laws.”

Life of the Land was cited in newspapers and magazines throughout the country.

Life of the Land is waging a vigorous fight against polluters in and out of court.” Stewart Udall. 1970. (Secretary of the Interior (1961-1969) under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson)

Newsweek (March 1, 1971): “Life of the Land filed a flurry of lawsuits aimed at pressuring the state to enforce its pollution laws.”

President Richard Nixon signed into law the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which required a federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for projects involving the federal government in January 1970.

Hawai`i adopted the EIS process by a Governor’s Executive Order in 1973 and then by law in 1974. At that time, all of Hawaii’s lawyers were educated abroad in U.S. law schools.

The UH Law School opened its doors in the fall of 1973. The first set of second year Hawai`i-trained law students became law interns in the summer of 1975. The first class graduated in the spring of 1976.

In 1971 Life of the Land started its Environmental Research and Law Program (ERLP).

Supplementing the half-dozen plus legal team of attorneys were law interns (usually law students who have completed 2 of their 3 years at law school). The ERLP started with 9 law interns in the summer of 1971.

In 1972 eighty law students applied and nineteen law interns were accepted.  

Interns had to pay their own way to Hawai`i.

The ERLP was Hawaii’s first public interest law firm. The ERLP attorneys represented several Hawaiian, community, and non-profit organizations in legal issues.

The ERLP legal team was larger than either EarthJustice’s or Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation s today.

Air and water pollution were much more extensive in the 1960s that it is today. Part of the pollution came from leaded gas.

Wall Street Journal (April 5, 1972. Lead story, p A1): “When the southerly kona winds blow onto shore trapping auto exhaust, the mountains of this island of Oahu disappear in the haze, and this city, famed for its tropical splendor, is blanketed in yellow smog. The Pacific Ocean nearby isn’t so pretty either.

Only 3,500 feet from shore and less than four miles from Waikiki Beach, 55 million gallons of raw sewage churn into the sea daily, discoloring and polluting the water. ...

Lawsuits and lobbying efforts by Life of the Land are forcing the state health department and the administration of Gov. John Burns to devote increasing time to pollution matters.”

Life of the Land intervened in the 1971 HECO Rate Case and won it on appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court. Life of the Land sued the Navy over the bombing of Kaho`olawe and got the first military EIS in the nation. Life of the Land argued an EIS case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hawaii Business News (Cover Story, November 1973): “Ecology itself has rapidly become a national issue, about as hard to oppose as motherhood or the flag. But while most people agree that something must be done about guarding the nation’s environment, few agree on priorities or even on a definition of the problems.

Because ecology has no clear manifesto, it has spawned all sorts of groups and movements. Often this splintering has made much of the protest ineffective.

Not so in the case of Life of the Land, which in Hawaii has provided a focal point for a widely diverse group of characters and forces – a polarizing force on the local scene that is disrupting long established political, economic and social alignments.

With its bold, sometimes impertinently aggressive tactics LOL has displayed a persistent knack of hitting the State’s governmental and business establishment where it hurts – in the pocketbook. ...

The remarkable thing about Life of the Land is the fact that it has succeeded as well as it has against such a broad and potent array of opposition.”

Much of Hawai`i’s land use case law was written as a result of Life of the Land’s cases.

Star-Bulletin Editorial (May 13, 1975): “Useful Gadfly. ...Life of the Land fills a near-vacuum in the State in terms of a citizens’ lobby to challenge the establishment’s policy decisions ...particularly in the all-important areas of land use and environmental protect."

In 1976 Tony Hodges left the organization. The UH Law School graduated its first class.

#      #      #