Bill 57- Ko‘olau Poko Sustainable Communities Plan

The O‘ahu Group submitted the following written and oral testimony regarding the Ko‘olau Poko Sustainable Communities Plan before the Council’s Transportation and Planning Committee on August 1, 2017. There were several proposed amendments to the bill that we addressed in our comments:


The Committee considered several of our comments and aligned with our position- they did not extend the Community Growth Boundary into the DeReis property in Kahalu‘u, they approved transferring ownership of the Stairway to Heaven from the Honolulu Board of Water Supply to the City and County, and although they approved the expansion of the Hawaiian Memorial Park, they included an amendment to ensure the protection of any “rare, threatened, or endangered species” that may potentially be affected by the proposal. Hawaiian Memorial Park has also hired a entomologist to complete a biological survey of the expansion area to locate the habitat of the endangered Hawaiian Blackline Damselfly and assess the impacts of the development in the project’s EIS. We will stay updated with this process to ensure Hawaiian Memorial Park is held accountable to the commitments they made before the community and Council. Bill 57 passed third reading on August 9th, 2017.

Haleiwa Plantation Village- Bill 55 and Bill 56 (2017)

The O‘ahu Group submitted the following testimony in opposition to the proposed Haleiwa Plantation Village in Bill 55 (2017) and Bill 56 (2017). The Zoning and Housing Committee unanimously deferred both bills at the August 3rd, 2017 Special Committee Meeting in Haleiwa. More information about the Bills and the result of the hearing can be found in the Civil Beat article below. Many thanks to North Shore residents Jen Homcy, Blake McElheny, and Kathleen Elliot for their guidance on this issue to the O‘ahu Group:

Aloha Chair Pine, Vice Chair Anderson, and members of the Zoning and Housing Committee,

On behalf of the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group’s 8,000 members and supporters, we oppose Bill 55 (2017) and Bill 56 (2017), which would rezone land in Haleiwa from agricultural to urban/residential for the proposed Haleiwa Plantation Village (HPV) project. We respectfully request that the Zoning and Housing Committee oppose Bill 55 and Bill 56 in light of the following inadequacies and issues:

Development on agricultural lands- The O‘ahu Group of the Sierra Club is generally opposed to up zoning agricultural lands for development because we believe it is an urgent priority to increase food production on O‘ahu. In this we take our cue from researchers and faculty at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, who are increasingly sounding the alarm about the need to rapidly increase the amount of food grown in Hawai‘i. This is to meet the mounting threat of global food shortages and food price inflation as a result of climate change, as well as the threat to the just-in-time food distribution network from the anticipated increase in frequency and destructiveness of severe weather events. The HPV proposal would convert valuable agricultural land to urban uses in rural Haleiwa. The applicant argues that the land is unfit for farming, however, the land is currently being farmed! It is planted with fruit trees and adjacent areas around the Haleiwa Marsh currently farm taro, lotus, and other crops. Furthermore, a portion of the land has been proposed for designation as Important Agricultural Land by the City & County of Honolulu, while most of the Northern Property has soils that are rated Prime, meaning that they are regarded as high-quality soils.

Affordable housing uncertainty- The HPV project purports to add 29 lots with up to 35 homes within R5 zoning. New rules administered by the Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting would potentially permit additional Accessory Dwelling Units, which would increase the number of allowable homes in the development area. While the Sierra Club understands the need for new affordable housing for local families on the North Shore and indeed supports construction of housing within the urban core of the legacy towns of La‘ie, Kahuku, and Haleiwa, we believe that such development should occur in denser configurations that are pedestrian and transit oriented, not as traditional single family homes. The law requires that 30 percent of the lots be made affordable to people earning not more than 140 percent of area median income, but because these will be individually sold as vacant lots, there is no guarantee that the homes that are ultimately built will in fact be occupied by local families in need of “workforce” housing.

Lack of community support- The Honolulu Planning Commission recommended that the City Council reject the HPV proposal in March 2017. Additionally, the North Shore Neighborhood Board passed a Resolution in October 2016 opposing the State Land Use Boundary change from Agriculture to Urban. The Sierra Club is bound by its bylaws to support community concerns on environmental issues wherever possible. We believe the Council should show deference to the concerns of the community as expressed by the Neighborhood Board.

We appreciate that a special Zoning and Housing Committee meeting is being held in Haleiwa, so that community members directly affected by the proposed housing project will be given an opportunity to raise their concerns. We ask that you consider the issues above and vote against Bill 55 (2017) and Bill 56 (2017).

Council Committee Defers Proposal To Develop Haleiwa Farmland

Two bills would have rezoned seven acres of agricultural land to urban or residential and allowed for up to 35 homes
By Natanya Friedheim / August 2, 2017

The Honolulu City Council zoning committee deferred two bills Tuesday night that would have rezoned seven acres of agricultural land in Haleiwa to either residential or urban.

Scott Wallace, who bought the land in 2010, said he wanted to divide it into 29 lots and sell each for an estimated price of $175,000 to $200,000. Bills 55 and 56 would have allowed him to do so.

The land sits along Achiu Lane, just off Kamehameha Highway makai of the North Shore Marketplace.

The nearly three-hour meeting at a gym in Haleiwa lasted till nearly 10 p.m.

Scott Wallace purchased the Haleiwa property in 2010 with the intention of developing it residentially. Courtesy of Malia Evans.

After the public testimony, the room grew tense as Councilman Ernie Martin, who represents the North Shore but is not a member of the committee, stated his opposition to the proposed development despite considering Wallace a “good friend.”

“There’s overwhelming consensus against the project,” Martin said. “I’ve been very reluctant to support any type of development in my district … I subscribe to that philosophy that growth should be more directed towards urban Honolulu as well as the second city.”

The majority of attendees who testified opposed the bills. Many argued they would set a dangerous precedent for rezoning agricultural land for housing.

There also were concerns about Haleiwa’s already heavy traffic.

In March, the Honolulu Planning Commission also opposed the proposal and recommended the council reject it.

“I see that this project could provide some solid opportunities for affordable housing,” said Councilman Ikaika Anderson. However, he added, “it’s obvious that the community still has a lot of concern here.”

Anderson was one of thee committee members at the meeting. He and Councilman Brandon Elefante supported committee Chair Kymberly Pine’s call to defer the bill.

Councilman Ron Menor, who attended but is not a committee member, said the decision demonstrated the council’s consideration of public interests.

“I hope that tonight’s recommendation from the chair and this committee’s support for her recommendation demonstrates that as council members we do listen to the public, we do listen to the community,” he said.

Loud Hiker Blues

Written by Colleen Soares, O‘ahu Group Outings Committee Chair


You wake up early, excited and looking forward to the day. You eat and dress quickly, grab your water and pack, and head for the hills. You’re going hiking, to the top of the Pali! And you’re pumped! You park in a residential area, houses all around. You see a friend, climb out, slam the door, and holler good morning. You’re excited and talking loudly as you walk two blocks to the trailhead, past other houses. It is Saturday, 8 am.

Meanwhile…on the other side of the door… You are deeply asleep when you are awakened sharply by loud music and car doors slamming outside your bedroom window. The clock says 8 am. You are exhausted, and all week, you’ve been looking forward to the one morning you can sleep in. But the music and loud talk and slamming continues. Now, you are fully awake. And angry! You look outside and shake your head. It’s those damn hikers again!

There has been much discussion and complaint about these problems. We are talking about common sense and courtesy from trail users. But we’re human, and we forget, especially in the exuberance of an early morning excursion with friends. Trail users want access to trails, safety and parking. We need parking areas at Kuliouou, and at Maunawili, Manana and other state Na Ala Hele trails that don’t have anything but street parking. More and more people are taking to the trails, and parking has become the major problem. Additionally, busloads of tourists are ferried to trailheads, and we hope they are reminded often that people live nearby.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources receives the brunt of complaints. Hikers talk loudly, slam car doors, obstruct driveways, use water hoses in residents’ yards, and track mud across lawns and cement. DLNR will soon install a few signs to remind us to be more considerate, but they will be at the trailhead, after the noise damage is done. DLNR cannot do the whole job. They have mountains of work to do to keep our parks and trails safe.

DLNR has huge responsibilities and needs a bigger share of state funds in order to protect and conserve our natural resources. “DLNR is responsible for 1.3 million acres of state land, 3 million acres of state ocean waters, 2 million acres of conservation district lands, our drinking water supply, our fisheries, coral reefs, indigenous and endangered flora and fauna, and all of Hawaii‟s historic and cultural sites. And yet, the total operating DLNR budget adds up to less than 1% of the entire state operating budget and 1.6% of permanent civil service workforce.” Auwe!

Support for Two New Affordable Housing Measures

The O‘ahu Group supports two new Honolulu City Council bills that will help create a better affordable housing strategy for Honolulu.

Bill 58 (2017) relating to affordable housing requirements would increase the production of affordable housing, to encourage dispersal of affordable housing throughout the City and County of Honolulu, and to maintain the units as affordable for a long period of time. Please see our testimony below:

Bill 59 (2017) relating to affordable housing incentives would to provide financial support for the creation and maintenance of affordable dwelling units that are provided through compliance with bills and ordinances relating to an Affordable Housing Requirement, Planned Development-Transit  permits, and Interim Planned Development-Transit permits, and qualifying rental housing projects pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes. Please see our testimony below:


O‘ahu Group guest hosts ThinkTech Hawaii

This summer, the O‘ahu Group is guest hosting 4 ThinkTech Hawai‘i episodes of “Hawai‘i is my Main Land” to share and discuss a few of the environmental issues our organization is championing. Mahalo to Kaui Lucas and the ThinkTech ohana for this great opportunity. Please enjoy the episodes below and check out “Hawaii is my Main Land” with Kaui Lucas- live on ThinkTech every Friday at 3 pm.

The Sierra Club Asks- How Many Hikers Can O‘ahu Handle? July 14, 2017

Jodi Malinoski, the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group Coordinator, discusses the Sierra Club’s Outings program, which leads weekly hikes and service projects on Oahu. Randy Ching, volunteer Outings leader and executive committee member for the Sierra Club O‘ahu Group, describes the impact of tourism and social media on our natural resources and trails. The Sierra Club asks: how many hikers are too many? What can be done to ensure the protection of our O‘ahu trails, cultural sites, and native ecosystems now and into the future?

What is Sustainable Community Design? July 21, 2017

Rob Kinslow, Sierra Club O‘ahu Group Executive Committee volunteer has a long background in sustainable community development, promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable business in Hawai‘i for more than a decade.On tis episode of Hawai‘i is My Main Land, Rob is joined by Christen Noelani Oliveira, a Sustainable Community Systems Designer, currently a program manager at Kokua Kalihi Valley. Together they discuss Christen’s design work in sustainable communities and highlight the enormous potential for communities and social systems to become sustainable in our islands.

Hawai‘i’s Industrial Hemp Revolution, August 4th, 2017

Sai Weiss, Sierra Club O‘ahu Group Treasurer invited Senator Russell Ruderman (Puna, Big Island) to discuss Hawaii’s industrial hemp revolution and the future economic opportunities and challenges that exist. They explore the history, viability and legality around industrial hemp.

Civil Beat: Threat To Drinking Water Remains As Navy Studies Options For Fuel Tanks

The facility has 20 tanks with a total capacity of 250 million gallons of fuel. It is the largest underground fuel tank system in the nation, and the Navy says it’s essential to military operations in the Pacific.

But the aging tanks are near two Oahu aquifers that supply thousands of residents with drinking water, and they have a history of leaking. In January 2014, 27,000 gallons of fuel spilled, prompting a public outcry and regulatory agencies to take action.

The security fence at Red Hill underground fuel tank facility in 2014. Access is restricted because it’s still an operational military facility. ©PF Bentley/Civil Beat

In October 2015, the Navy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Hawaii Department of Health signed an “administrative order on consent” that set out a 22-year timeline to upgrade the tanks. The agencies’ press release announcing the agreement said the Navy would “evaluate potential cleanup methods and assess the risk the facility poses to Oahu’s drinking water resources, all within the next two years.”

But the Navy is still six months away from turning in a report analyzing various options for upgrading the tanks, and state and federal officials anticipate it will take three to six months to choose the best one.

“I can’t say the exact schedule because it will depend on a number of factors,” said Tom Huetteman, assistant director in the Land Division for EPA Region 9. “Once we have the document on hand we will get to work.”

Steven Chang of the health department said additional reports on assessing risks and investigating fuel releases aren’t expected until next year.

The EPA and DOH sent a letter to the Navy  last month criticizing the quality of the data it has provided so far.

“They didn’t have a full, good grasp of the degree of the work that’s involved.” — Erwin Kawata, Honolulu Board of Water Supply

“The Navy has spent almost two years on the environmental investigation and modeling aspects of the Red Hill AOC, yet little additional information about environmental conditions in the area has been collected,” the regulatory agencies wrote.

In response, the Navy hired more consultants to beef up its expertise. Mark Manfredi, the lead Navy official on the project, acknowledged the data fell short but said that doesn’t mean the final reports will be delayed.

Manfredi said since the agreement was signed in October 2015, the Navy has spent about $20 million on various improvements including installing additional monitoring wells, increasing the frequency of tank testing and completing multiple reports.

Huetteman, Chang, and Manfredi all say that the process is still on schedule.

But Erwin Kawata from the Honolulu Board of Water Supply said the agencies gave the impression that studies and analysis would get done within the first two years, and that’s not the case.

“It’s going to go beyond that,” he said. “There’s just so many technical issues, concepts, principles that need to be evaluated. They didn’t have a full, good grasp of the degree of the work that’s involved.”

He thinks it will take longer than expected to decide which alternative to pursue, and said he’s concerned about the potential for additional contamination if the process of upgrading the tanks is dragged out.

Jodi Malinoski from the Sierra Club Hawaii is also worried that the Navy is falling behind schedule. She’s frustrated that the Navy gets 22 years to upgrade the tanks to begin with.

“By the time it’s finished the tanks will be nearly 100 years old and the tanks were not built to last forever,” she said.

Kawata was disappointed that the Legislature didn’t approve a bill this year that would have required the Navy to double-line the tanks.

Sen. Mike Gabbard introduced the proposal with the support of groups like the Sierra Club Hawaii, but it died quickly in the Senate.

Chang said the bill was premature because figuring out the best way to prevent future leaks requires more analysis.

“It’s not an off-the-shelf solution,” Chang said.

Meanwhile, lack of staffing and resources is a looming potential challenge. The health department has been trying to hire an engineer, geologist and environmental health specialist to better understand the Navy’s reports, and the state agency is bracing for potential budget cuts because many of its positions are federally funded.

Chang himself is thinking of retiring, in part because the division is moving from Kakaako to a new location in Pearl City and he lives in East Honolulu, although he’s considering staying on as a volunteer.

Manfredi said he understands concerns about potential delays, but that the Navy is taking the process seriously.

“At the end of the day the Navy isn’t gaining anything by delaying any of this work,” he said. “The longer it takes us to make a decision the less time we have to do this. It’s in our best interest to get this knocked out as soon as we can.”

Support letter for Honolulu’s electric bus grant application

Below is the support letter the O‘ahu Group submitted to the Federal Transit Administration in support of the Honolulu’s Department of Transportation Services “Low-No Emission Vehicle Program” grant application, which would provide federal funding for the purchase of electric buses and infrastructure on O‘ahu. Mahalo to the Department of Transportation Services for allowing us to support your efforts to introduce electric buses in Hawai‘i. Our fingers are crossed that Honolulu is awarded the Low-No grant!

Red Hill Press Coverage in June 2017

Our Red Hill Water Security campaign has gotten a lot of great press coverage this month. Please enjoy!

FLUX Hawai‘i magazine article, Sacred Places Edition, “What Lies Beneath Red Hill”, read here:

ThinkTech Hawai‘i, “Hawai‘i is my MainLand” show. Red Hill Cocktail Hour: Mixing War Fuel with Water:

Star-Advertiser Letter to the Editor by Joshua Noga:

Star-Advertiser Letter to the Editor by Nate Yuen:

Editorial| Our View

Speed up work on Red Hill tanks

June 29, 2017
Despite a fast-approaching deadline for a defensible plan to upgrade protection of drinking water sources near its Red Hill fuel farm, the U.S. Navy has continued to drag its feet.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state Department of Health issued a letter on June 7 rightly criticizing the Navy, which has been conducting an environmental investigation for almost two years, for providing too little information on water flow modeling that tracks where previously spilled fuel might end up.

The call for flow modeling is part of an administrative order on consent agreed to by the Navy, state Health Department, EPA and Defense Logistics Agency to minimize the threat of fuel releases, following a 27,000-gallon spill in 2014 and periodic spills before that at the World War II-era facility.

In response to the letter, which referenced repeated chiding of the Navy for “insufficient understanding of the expertise and level of effort necessary” to meet the demands of the consent order, Rear Adm. John Fuller, head of Navy Region Hawaii, presented a promising can-do reply.

In a June 20 letter to Red Hill “stakeholders,” he said: “We can and we will do better. While no one likes getting a progress report that essentially says, ‘Navy, you need to work harder and smarter to meet a future requirement,’ their letter illustrates the (consent order’s) power and value.”

But Fuller, who took the helm in Hawaii two years ago, is slated to relinquish command of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific on Friday. It’s imperative that his successor follow through with a plan that provides a better buffer against an ever-present public health threat.

Fuller asserted that the 2014 leak was “due to human error, not simple material failure,” and that the facility’s steel-lined tanks — now more than 70 years old — are in “great condition” and undergoing continual modernization. Regardless, the call for a retrofit or even possible relocation is justified because the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility is perched just 100 feet above Oahu’s primary aquifer, which supplies drinking water to more than 600,000 residents, from Moanalua to Hawaii Kai. That proximity is too close for drinking-water comfort in the world’s most isolated island chain.

Constructed as a bombproof reserve, the Navy-operated facility houses 20 aging tanks — each 250 feet tall and 100 feet in diameter, situated vertically underground. Each is large enough to bottle Aloha Tower (184 feet tall). The site’s fuel capacity is 250 million gallons, enough fuel to fill 379 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The finalized fuel tank upgrade plan is due Dec. 8. At least six options are under review — three envision what’s now considered the closest thing to a sure-bet seal: a double-walled retrofit. The rest opt for a single-wall. Both types present daunting engineering challenges. In that respect, some foot-dragging, while not acceptable, is understandable.

Red Hill was a state secret until the early 1990s, when the facility was declassified. By the late ’90s, the Navy had initiated various environmental probes and monitoring. Given that nearly two decades have passed since then, it’s puzzling that the Navy does not have water flow modeling down cold.

In all, reports suggest that since 1947 there have been more than 30 leaks, with at least 170,000 gallons of fuel seeping away from tanks.

The military needs the facility’s flow of fuel to support vessels and aircraft in its Pacific theater. Oahu residents, however, are due for updated protection against catastrophe scenarios. For example, the city Board of Water Supply estimates that structural failure — triggered by an earthquake, for example — could drop more than 1 million gallons of fuel pollution into groundwater and potentially several million gallons into Halawa Stream and Pearl Harbor.

Both military and civilian sectors are counting on the Navy to produce a plan for Red Hill that can stand up to scientific and engineering scrutiny. Over the next several months, it can — and must — do better.

Mayor Caldwell signs Sierra Club’s “Mayors for 100% Clean Energy” pledge

This morning Sierra Club activists and partners rallied in Miami Beach to announce the 118 mayors and counting who have now joined “Mayors For 100% Clean Energy” — calling on all mayors to commit their cities to 100% clean and renewable energy and support the 100% Renewable Energy in American Cities resolution.

MIAMI BEACH, Florida — Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell is attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Miami Beach after signing the Sierra Club’s “Mayors for 100% Clean Energy” initiative, joining a growing group of 118 cities in the United States to endorse a goal of transitioning to a 100 percent clean and renewable energy future.

The signed commitment states, “I, Mayor Kirk Caldwell of Honolulu, Hawai‘i, support a goal of 100 percent clean, renewable energy in my city and across the United States. I believe that a transition to clean energy is good for my community: It will make us stronger, healthier, and more resilient; it will create jobs and new business opportunities; and it will allow us to become a more equitable society where everyone has opportunity in a thriving local economy.”

During this weekend’s conference, Mayors will be voting on a “100% Renewable Energy in American Cities” resolution to support making 100 percent renewable power a top policy priority over the next decade. The resolution represents 148 million people and 41.8 percent of the country’s electricity use. If passed, it will be the broadest rejection of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the Unites States from the Paris Climate Agreement.

“The Sierra Club O‘ahu Group applauds Mayor Caldwell for signing the Sierra Club’s “Mayors 100% Clean Energy” pledge and encourages his support for the resolution at the U.S. Conference of Mayors” said Jodi Malinoski, O‘ahu Group Coordinator. “As the Trump Administration threatens to undo recent progress towards clean energy, the Mayor’s commitment will ensure that Honolulu will be a strong leader for climate justice. We look forward to working with the Mayor, City Council, and the new Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency to accelerate Honolulu’s transition away from dirty, imported fossil fuels to locally-produced, renewable energy.”

– END –

The Sierra Club of Hawai‘i’s O‘ahu Group is an environmental advocacy group with approximately 8,000 members and supporters island-wide. We have an ambitious agenda to improve the sustainability of our island home and focus on a wide spectrum of issues: such as mitigating and adapting to climate change, concentrating smart growth and development within the urban core, and advocating for local food production, water security, and waste reduction. We rely on volunteers to support outdoor education programs, trail and native species restoration projects, and grassroots advocacy for sound environmental policies.

The Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign is a new national campaign launched in 2016 working to accelerate a just and equitable transition to 100 percent clean energy in the United States. Ready for 100 is campaigning to get 100 cities in the United States to move away from dirty, outdated fossil fuels and to commit to 100 percent clean energy. To read the “Mayors for 100% Clean Energy” endorsement and see the list of Mayors who have pledged their support, visit:

O‘ahu Group’s work on Electric Buses

One of the many campaign efforts the Sierra Club’s O‘ahu Group has been working on is researching and advocating for Honolulu to start incorporating zero-emission electric buses into their public bus fleet. Since October 2016, O‘ahu Group staff and volunteers have met with the Hawai‘i State Energy Office, the Hawai‘i Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, the City’s Department of Transportation Services, Mayor Caldwell, and all nine of the Honolulu City Councilmembers to learn more about existing efforts to support electric buses, grant opportunities to help Hawai‘i pay for electric buses and infrastructure, and to gauge the interest of our local agencies and politicians. Overall, the reception we have received has been largely positive and the City’s Administration is supportive of incorporating electric buses into TheBus system. We continue to discuss with the City’s Department of Transportation Services efforts to launch an electric bus pilot project in Honolulu in Fall 2017 and are also working to pass City Council Resolution 17-166 to support sustainable transportation through zero-emission electric buses.

Below is some information we have gathered on electric buses for anyone who wants to learn more about the benefits, opportunities, and what other cities are doing to incorporate and commit to electrification of their bus systems:

Pilot projects/bills

TheBus facts

  • TheBus operates a fleet of 542 buses: 389 standard 40 foot buses and 115 articulated 60 foot buses
  • The average age of the buses is 9.5 years old
  • Fuel and energy costs between 2015-2016 were nearly $14 mil, or 7% of the total expenses
  • Annual ridership is 68 million passenger trips and 67,000 miles
  • Electric buses would target routes less than 125 miles
  • Initial rollout would be best on Route 5, 7, 8, 16, 31, 32, and all express routes

Funding Opportunities

  • U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) allocated $211 M in 2016 in grants for buses and bus facilities projects. Eligible projects include those that replace, rehabilitate, lease, and purchase buses and related equipment as well as projects to purchase, rehabilitate, construct or lease bus-related facilities, such as buildings for bus storage and maintenance.
  • U.S. DOT granted $55 M to twenty transit providers in 2016 through the “Low or No-Emission Bus Competitive Grant Program”. Hawaii was eligible to participate for the first time in 2016 because the “non-attainment” language was dropped. Federal funding is very competitive and this grant received over 100 applications.
  • U.S. DOT granted $500 M to 40 transit providers in 2016 through the “Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery” Grant Program. This grant program has provided a combined $5.1 billion to 421 projects in all 50 states since 2009. Demand for the TIGER grant program continued to far exceed available funds; the DOT received 585 eligible applications from all 50 States in 2016 alone.
  • TheBus partnered with HECO and applied for a $25 M TIGER grant for 18 electric buses (federal funds covered 80%)- unsuccessful, was targeted towards route 7 in Kalihi Valley
  • The Federal share for the cost of acquiring a zero emission vehicle is 85%, 90% of the net project costs for bus-related equipment and facilities

Economic benefits

  • BYD electric buses were found to have an efficiency of about 19 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent) and the 40 foot Proterra bus efficiency was measured at 22 MPGe.
  • Initial cost of electric is +$300k, but the difference in local share cost is only about $38,000 for diesel vs. e-bus (40’ bus)
  • With advantageous rate schedule for off-peak consumption of electricity, annual energy costs for battery buses should be about ⅓ the cost of diesel
  • Maintenance costs for e-buses are lower than diesel or diesel-hybrid: predicted for 2020: $27,200 diesel or hybrid  vs $25,600 electric. No oil changes, no transmissions, no exotic EPA driven emissions reducing systems
  • Annual energy costs for electric are lower than diesel: predicted for 2020: $24k diesel vs $14k ebus
  • Estimated cost savings per year is $15k (energy + maintenance costs)
  • Although Electric buses cost about $300,000 more per bus than diesel, over a 14-year life, the savings in fuel cost, maintenance costs, and the benefits of Greenhouse Gas reduction results in a mildly more costly life-cycle cost (about 2.5% more per bus and additional cost of 10% based on a 3% discount rate).
  • If only local costs are considered, ebus have a 25% lower life cycle cost than other buses, assuming an off-peak TOU rate schedule from Hawaiian Electric

Environmental benefits

Health benefits

  • Diesel exhaust contains more than forty toxic air contaminants that in some cases can cause and/or worsen diseases such as asthma and cancer, disproportionately harming low-income neighborhoods.
  • Short term exposure to high concentrations of diesel exhaust/diesel particulate matter can cause headache, dizziness, and irritation of the eye, nose and throat severe enough to distract or disable miners and other workers. Prolonged exposure can increase the risk of cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary and respiratory disease and lung cancer.
  • The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies diesel engine exhaust as “carcinogenic to humans” and the US EPA classifies diesel exhaust as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

We believe that as Hawai‘i moves towards its commitment to producing 100% renewable energy and reducing our dependence on expensive, imported fossil fuels, investing in electric buses is a smart move economically, environmentally, and socially for O‘ahu. We will continue to advocate for zero-emission electric buses on behalf of our members and supporters and will keep you updated on our efforts.