Star Advertiser: LED fixtures in city street lights dangerously bright, Sierra Club says

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The Sierra Club’s Oahu Group on Friday said the LED fixtures the city chose for its approximately 53,500 street lights across Oahu are “bluer” and more harmful than more technologically advanced LEDs now on the market.

“We met with the city over a year ago and advised them to avoid the use of the much bluer 4000K and 3000K lighting,” the Oahu Group of the Sierra Club said in a statement.

Robert Kroning, the city’s director of design and construction, said the city is discussing the concerns with contractor Johnson Controls. When the city solicited proposals for the project in 2016, 2700K lights were not commercially available.

The Oahu group said that the blue light component of the fixtures chosen by the city “has been scientifically proven to decrease night vision, make it more difficult for people to sleep and hurt their health, severely and adversely affect night-flying seabirds and greatly increase the sky brightness to the detriment of astronomy on Hawaii island and sky gazers on Oahu.”

Kevin Jim, an astronomer and physicist who volunteers with the Sierra Club, said Los Angeles is now requiring most new lighting be 2700K after it made the same mistake, he said.

Kroning said the city has learned that the contractor’s manufacturer recently made available 2700K lights. “We are having the contractor examine the new 2700K LED street lights to see if they meet the requirements of the request for proposals in both energy savings and in illumination of our roadways,” he said. “If they do, we may make the change to a 2700K fixture.”

Kroning said he’s comfortable with the 3000K fixtures, which will be used in 90 percent of the lamps “since the blue light component difference between 3000K and 2700K light is quite small.”

Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced the conversions Thursday, saying the city does not need to pay any of the $46.6 million in costs upfront and that the lights will pay for themselves within 10 years and then start saving the city about $5 million annually.

Support for Bill 1 (2017)- Ko‘olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan

Below is the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group’s organizational testimony in support for Bill 1 (2017)- the Ko‘olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan:

We also created this social media graphic which we shared with our allies in Ko‘olauloa, sent to our O‘ahu Group email list, and posted to our Facebook page:

“Please submit testimony in SUPPORT for Bill 1 (2017) and attend the special Planning Committee meeting on November 29th, 6:30 PM, at Hau‘ula Elementary School’s cafeteria. Bill 1 (2017) updates the Ko‘olauloa Sustainable Communities Plan and helps guide future development on O‘ahu. This bill preserves the rural character of Ko‘olauloa (Northeastern O‘ahu from Ka‘a‘awa to Kahuku) and omits the “Envision La‘ie” development project proposal. We must preserve our remaining agricultural lands on O‘ahu and concentrate development within the urban core. Read the meeting agenda and submit testimony at:

News Coverage for the meeting:

Civil Beat Article:


Star-Advertiser: Council committee defers ban on foam containers

By Gordon Y.K. Pang
November 16, 2017

A Honolulu City Council committee on Wednesday deferred a bill that would bar food vendors from using polystyrene foam food containers and require them to instead use compostable ones.

The decision to defer Bill 71 was met with anger and frustration from representatives of several environmental groups.

Public Works, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee Chairwoman Carol Fukunaga said there still appeared to be many concerns with the measure from various sides.

After the meeting, she said in an interview that she doesn’t intend to shelve the bill indefinitely.

“We’re going to have further discussions with the Department of Environmental Services, all the environmental organizations and the food industry folks and see what we can do with Bill 71,” Fukunaga said. If the discussions lead to the need for a new bill, “then we’ll move forward on that.”

When Fukunaga made her recommendation in committee, none of her colleagues raised objections and she moved onto the next item on the agenda. Deferrals at the committee level generally don’t include a formal vote, but several environmentalists criticized her for not conducting a vote.

Earlier this year, Council members deferred Bill 59 (2016), a measure to get rid of loopholes in the plastic bag ban, also citing the need to find a compromise to appease different stakeholders.

More than 40 people testified Wednesday on Bill 71, which was introduced by Councilwoman Kymberly Pine. By about a 3-1 margin, people spoke in favor of a ban on foam containers.

The Rev. Phillip Harmon, founder of the nonprofit Kahu­mana, said the organization serves food at its farm and cafe on bio-­compostable materials that will break down into soil. “Initially, about five years ago, it added about 20 cents to every meal we produced,” Harmon said. “Five years later, it’s 11 cents. ”

Additionally, “it doesn’t leak; it’s designed to accept the oil and grease from whatever the meal is,” he said.

Several other restaurateurs, as well as environmental groups, testified that not only is styrene, a key chemical in foam containers, harmful to animals and the environment, it’s unhealthy for humans as well.

Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawai‘i co-founder Dean Otsuki said, “Styrene has been linked to cancer, vision and hearing loss, impaired memory and concentration, and nervous system effects. … The chemicals accumulate in your body … and that’s when you get into trouble.”

David Acheson of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii said the organization’s various temples are trying to convert to using only reusables and recyclables. At his own temple, members are being encouraged to bring their own cups, utensils and plates. “This is the way we’re heading,” he said. “We’re not there yet. … It’s a journey.”

The Hawaii Food Industry Association, the Retail Merchants Association and Malama 808, a group composed of restaurateurs and merchants billed as dedicated to ridding Hawaii of litter, testified against the bill.

Lauren Zirbel of the Hawaii Food Industry Association said requiring compostable food containers would “provide no positive upside to the environment” because they don’t go to a composting facility, but would increase costs for businesses and, ultimately, consumers.

Even commonly used egg containers and meat trays would be banned under the bill, she said. “This is a huge cost.”

Jason Higa, president of FCH Enterprises, the parent company of Zippy’s Restaurants, said his restaurants switched to Type 5 polypropylene containers, which are microwave-safe, in 2010 in response to customer feedback.

Higa said he’s most troubled with the bill’s requirement that restaurants use compostable containers, something his company explored last year. “Our biggest concern with compostable containers is from a safety standpoint. … The integrity of that container is an issue for employees as well as our customers.”

About 10 employees of KYD Inc., a local manufacturer of disposable containers, testified that they may lose their jobs if the bill is passed.

In related news, the committee also deferred Bill 73, which attempts to tackle littering through education by providing incentives for nonprofits to help.

Bill 71 (2017)- Ban of expanded polystyrene foam food containers

In October and November 2017, the O‘ahu Group and coalition partners from the Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation and Surfrider Foundation met with Councilmember Pine (bill introducer) and Councilmember Fukunaga (Committee Chair) to discuss O‘ahu’s proposed foam ban. We submitted the following testimony in support of O‘ahu’s foam ban. Click here to read Bill 71 (2017) and its current status.

Resolution 17-284 to Curb Toxic Herbicide Use

Mahalo to the O‘ahu Group’s Conservation Chair, Leilei Joy Shih, for submitting this insightful testimony in support of Resolution 17-284.

UPDATE: Resolution 17-284 CD1 is up for adoption at the December 6th, full Council meeting. Please submit online testimony in support by December 5th. You can read the meeting agenda and submit online testimony HERE.


Recycling meeting

The O‘ahu Group joined a meeting at Honolulu Hale to discuss the future of recycling and solid waste in light of the city auditor’s report, which recommends we send our recyclables to H-Power for incineration. While there is no easy solution to managing O‘ahu’s waste, the Sierra Club supports zero waste and extended producer responsibility policies, locally managing waste through the lens of environmental justice, and prioritizing waste reduction before reuse and recycling. This is just the beginning of working together with the City, State, and our non-profit allies to find creative, sustainable solutions for our ōpala.

Update 11/14/17- You can read more about this issue in the recent Civil Beat article: Recycle or Incinerate? The Battle of the Blue Bins

Support for Resolutions relating to Clean Transportation

The O‘ahu Group continues our work to encourage clean transportation for O‘ahu.

We submitted written and oral testimony in support for Resolution 17-237, which encourages an electric bus pilot program, the adoption of a comprehensive transition plan, and moving to all zero-emission electric buses: 

We also submitted written and oral testimony in support for Resolution 17-238, which urges the city to transition to an all electric vehicle motor pool and automotive fleet. The city currently has about 1,800 vehicles in use and only 2 are electric…so far.

Both Resolutions had support from the City Administration and passed through the Transportation and Planning Committee at the October 26, 2017 meeting. They were adopted unanimously by the full Council at the November 1, 2017 meeting.

Star Advertiser: Hawaii to get $1.45M for electric buses

By Star-Advertiser staff
September 18, 2017

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz announced today that the federal government will award $1.45 million to the Honolulu Department of Transportation Services for the purchase and deployment of fully electric transit buses.

“Hawai‘i has long been a leader in clean energy, and the city of Honolulu is building on that legacy by transitioning to buses that will keep our air clean,” Senator Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a press release. “I’m glad that this funding will take our state one step closer to reaching our goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.”

Schatz’s office said a zero-emission electric bus could eliminate nearly 1,700 tons of carbon pollution over its 12-year lifespan, the equivalent of taking 27 cars off the road.

The funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation is part of Honolulu’s ongoing effort to electrify its public transit operation through public-private partnerships. Hawaiian Electric is expected to install the electric infrastructure for up to five Battery-Electric Buses while Gillig Corporation LLC, the largest all-American bus manufacturer in the United States, will produce the buses.

Star-Advertiser: Kahala Hotel drops commercial expansion request

By Allison Schaefers
August 15, 2017

BRUCE ASATO / JUNE 12 The Kahala Hotel & Resort has withdrawn its request to the Board of Land and Natural Resources to triple its beach easement.


The Kahala Hotel &Resort is withdrawing its controversial request to obtain a rare nonexclusive easement to use about an acre of public shoreline for commercial enterprises.

The Kahala Hotel notified Richard Turbin, chairman of the Waialae­-Kahala Neighborhood Board, on Monday that it had sent a request to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources asking to withdraw a draft environmental assessment filed April 23 by the hotel’s Japanese owner, Resorttrust Hawaii LLC.

The move was “out of respect for and appreciation of the comments and concerns expressed by the community,” Kahala Hotel General Manager Gerald Glennon said in a letter to Turbin.

Glennon said the hotel wants “to engage in on-going dialogue” and hopes to provide regular updates at the Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board monthly meetings. Glennon also invited Turbin to meet with him at the property next week.

“The Kahala Hotel values its relationship with the community and is committed to developing effective ways of encouraging and welcoming community input,” Glennon said.

The Kahala Hotel did not return a call from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to clarify whether it intends to resubmit a new plan after a period of public outreach.

The Kahala Hotel had originally planned to spend $900,000 to improve a 2.65-acre parcel, including leasehold and state beach lands. In return, it wanted to expand its outdoor wedding ceremonies to three state parcels from two as well as carve out enough space to offer torch-lighting ceremonies and rides in traditional sailing outrigger canoes.

But the plan was not well received by the community.

The Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board, the Surfrider Foundation, the Sierra Club and some Oahu residents mounted protests to the hotel’s proposal. Critics said it would set a dangerous precedent by favoring commercial interests over public beach access, which is a hard-won right in Hawaii.

The hotel, its owners and consultants also were faulted for failing to notify key stakeholders before the draft environmental assessment comment period expired and electing not to provide updates to the standing-room-only crowds gathered at the June and July Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board meetings.

At the Waialae-Kahala Neighborhood Board’s behest, Department of Land and Natural Resources Chairwoman Suzanne Case sent a June 28 letter to the hotel’s representative asking that it consider refiling the draft environmental assessment to trigger an additional 30-day comment period. That request had gone unanswered until now.

“What a turnaround. I’m happy but I don’t trust it yet,” said Diamond Head resident Linda Wong, who helped organize community protests. “It’s in their best interest to push the pause button because of the breadth of community concerns. We’ve fought a hard battle and we’ll stay with it.’

Mahalo nui to Sierra Club volunteer Dave Raney for his leadership on behalf of the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group to protect beach access in the Kahala area. Dave attended many meetings and hearings, wrote letters, made phone calls, and coordinated community efforts which have resulted in the Kahala Hotel withdrawing its proposal. Mahalo also to Linda Wong, Richard Turbin, Jim Nicolay, Matt Moore, and many more community activists that have helped on this project.