Senate Bills Could Help Reduce Use Of Fossil Fuels

By Mike Gabbard

Aloha Friends,

The 2012 Legislative Session is in full swing. The state Supreme Court recently ruled the Reapportionment Commission’s new legislative districts plan was invalid because it counted too many of the non-permanent resident military and students. The commission had a deadline of Feb. 1 to come up with a new plan, but this didn’t happen. This means none of us knows what our districts will look like come 2013. I’ll keep you posted!

Energy and Environment Committee Sets Priorities for 2012

As the Senate’s Energy and Environment chairman, I’m working to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Here are a few of the bills we’ll be taking up in the coming weeks:

* SB 2511 would require retailers to charge a 10 cent fee for every plastic or paper shopping bag they provide to customers. Some of the revenue from the fee would go toward protecting and restoring watersheds.

* SB 2281 would allow applicants or agencies to bypass an environmental assessment (EA) and proceed directly with an environmental impact assessment (EIS) if the proposed project is likely to require an EIS. This could save developers between $10,000 and $50,000 without compromising environmental protections.

* SB 2291 would make it clear that homeowner associations can’t prohibit the installation of PV solar panels on condos up to three stories in height. This legislation was requested by a Waikele resident who is being prevented from installing PV.

* SB 2297 would specify that geothermal is an affordable and reliable source of firm power for the state, without excluding other potential sources of firm power. This could help geothermal developers lease lands for their projects.

East Kapolei Fire Company Placed in Service

I got word that the Honolulu Fire Department placed a new fire company, Engine 43, in service Jan. 22. The East Kapolei Fire Station, which will be located adjacent to the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands headquarters, is still under construction.

However, HFD has the new fire apparatus and crew stationed at the construction site, where they will be housed in portable trailers until the station is complete at the end of the year. Engine 43 will be available for emergency response 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Governor Releases More Construction Funding for Senate District 19

I was happy to hear that Governor Abercrombie announced Jan. 27 that he had released $15.6 million in funding for “shovelready” construction projects Of those funds, $1,650,000 will be for the design, construction and works of art for the renovation of Hawaii Army National Guard Building 117 in Kalaeloa. Mahalo to the governor for releasing this important funding for our military.

“Listen Story” Meeting

My next “listen story” meeting will be held Feb. 25 from 9 to 10 a.m. at Starbucks in Waikele Center.

Sen. Mike Gabbard represnts District 19. Email