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“The clock is ticking:” Hawaii Lawmakers Back Environmental Measures
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“The clock is ticking:” Hawaii Lawmakers Back Environmental Measures

Waikiki with what looks like less visitors and beachgoers on January 20, 2022 during a statewide Covid-19 surge. January 20, 2022

Hawaii lawmakers will take another crack at charging visitors green fees in an effort to protect Hawaii’s environment as tourism rebounds.

Visitors would have to pay a yet undetermined fee which would go toward environmental programs like natural resource protection, conservation, and management of state parks, trails, and other related activities.

These green fees could increase job opportunities, creating literally thousands of green jobs, and elevating the overall visitor experience, said Sen. Mike Gabbard. He co-chairs Environmental Legislative Caucus, and introduced the bill. We should all pay our fair share of protection of our islands beauty and bounty, and obviously that includes our tourists.”

The bill is among 10 measures the Environmental Legislative Caucus introduced on Friday, proposals that follow the state’s declaration of a climate emergency last year.

Waikiki with what looks like less visitors and beachgoers on January 20, 2022 during a statewide Covid-19 surge. January 20, 2022
Tourism is booming and lawmakers have introduced legislation to charge visitors a green fee. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

In a news release, the caucus’s c0-chair, Rep. Nicole Lowen, said, “The climate crisis is one of Hawaii’s most pressing issues, and the clock is ticking for Hawaii to take bold action.”

The bills aim to reduce the state’s carbon footprint, protect Hawaii’s natural resources and improve the quality of life, she added.

Carbon-Related Measures

According to Lowen, Hawaii has recently achieved its goal of decarbonization by reducing carbon emissions below 1990 levels by 2020.

However, a bill would make it possible to update that goal. requiring an “economy-wide” greenhouse gas emissions reduction of 70% over 2005 levels by 2030. It would direct state emergency office to investigate possible pathways and make recommendations. The bill would also provide funding for a study that will examine how the state can achieve its goal of decarbonization.

A carbon tax would be another way to reduce carbon emissions.

Sen. Karl Rhoads said that the revenue generated would be returned as a dividend, or tax credit to residents.

Basically were returning all of the money that we collect with this tax,” Rhoads said.

The carbon tax has been implemented Three years of failure in the Legislature

However, Rhoads said that the “carbon tax still works.”

“The reason for that is because people will try to avoid buying items or services that are expensive, he said.

Waimanalo Agriculture land Koolau Mountains Aerial1.
Lawmakers are also introducing a measure that would “keep forests and working agricultural lands intact.” Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Another option It aims to preserve forests and agricultural lands. It would encourage farmers and other agricultural workers to adopt carbon sequestering practices while supporting local agriculture.

Gabbard stated, “We must do everything possible to reduce our carbon footprint” and become carbon-negative as soon as we can. And in striving to do this, it’s not enough to limit greenhouse gas emissions.”

Another bill would require cost-effective energy efficiency measures to be implemented. It would also require new state buildings to include water efficiency and emergency planning in their design.

Cesspools, Wildlife and Agriculture

The state’s 80,000 cesspools have been an ongoing issue, according to Lowen.

Another bill in the package would require cesspools be converted when a property sells, along with a tax credit to offset the cost.

We have a statutory mandate for them all to be converted by the 2050, and the bill we’re introducing this year starts a process of attrition by requiring physical conversion at the point of sale of a property,” Lowen said.

She also said that the bill includes a fully-refundable tax credit of $15,000 or $10,000 depending on the income of the filer.

Lawmakers will consider a bill that would create a habitat conservation for Hawaii’s native species. PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Rep. David Tarnas (also in the caucus) introduced a bill which would create a Habitat Conservation Plan to provide medical care to wildlife that has been hurt by natural causes, climate change, or threats to it.

Renewable energy is important but we need to protect our bird species and native bat species. Tanas said.

Red Hill andThe Green Amendment

Hawaii officials have asked the Navy to immediately cease operations at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility because of water contamination that has raised concerns about health.

Lawmakers passed a resolution urging Navy to decommission Red Hill tank.

“The Red Hill facility sits over the ground aquifer which provides almost all of Oahu’s drinking water,” said Rep. Sonny Ganaden, who introduced the resolution. “In the next five years, there is an estimated 80% chance of another leak occurring.”

Another bill would create a green amend, which would add a provision to the Bill of Rights section of the constitution to recognize and protect the rights of all people to pure water, clean air, a stable climate and healthy environment.”

So far, green amendments have been approved in New York and Montana. Gabbard reports that Hawaii is one of 12 states to have introduced a green amendment bill.

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