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

  • http://www.thebus.org/AboutTheBus/TheBustFacts14_1.pdf
  • http://www.thebus.org/AboutTheBus/TheBustFacts14_2.pdf
  • 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.   https://www.transit.dot.gov/about/news/us-department-transportation-announces-266-million-funding-opportunity-improve-bus
  • 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. https://www.transit.dot.gov/about/news/us-department-transportation-announces-55-million-grants-transit-agencies-deploy-clean
  • 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. https://www.transportation.gov/tiger
  • 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. http://altoonabustest.psu.edu/buses
  • 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. https://www.osha.gov/dts/hazardalerts/diesel_exhaust_hazard_alert.html
  • 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.” http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/pollution/diesel-exhaust-and-cancer

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.

Hawaiʻi Becomes First State to Adopt Paris Climate Commitments

Bill supporters from Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Hawaiʻi Center for Food Safety, Young Progressives Demanding Action, and others joined Governor Ige and legislative leaders at the bill signing ceremony.

Sierra Club members joined a hundred people in the rotunda of Hawaiʻi’s Capitol to celebrate Governor David Ige signing a bill that adopts certain commitments from the Paris Climate Agreement as state goals. This makes Hawaiʻi the first state to join the Paris Climate Agreement.

“Signing this bill demonstrates the strength of local governments and communities to inspire significant positive change in the world,” said Marti Townsend, Director for the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi. “In committing to reduce our local greenhouse gas production, Hawaiʻi is inspiring every community throughout the U.S. and the world to do its part as well.”

The Governor was flanked by representatives from each of the four counties in Hawaiʻi, who also presented proclamations committing to significantly reduce Hawaiʻi’s greenhouse gases. The bill signing ceremony attracted a hundred people from environmental agencies and advocacy groups, as well as businesses and concerned residents.

“I am here today because I know that without a habitable planet, we will not have a functioning economy,” said Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi volunteer Sai Weiss. “Hawaiʻi is joining 1,400 other communities and businesses that are doubling down on the commitment to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save our environment. This just shows that together we can save the planet.”

The bills signed today, S.B. 559 and H.B.1578, dedicate staff and funds to an inter-agency commission on climate change, outline specific goals for reducing climate-harming pollution, and establish a task force to encourage agricultural practices that capture carbon in the soil.

Photos from the event can be viewed here.

Star Advertiser: Don’t backslide; ban plastic bags

Honolulu Star Advertiser | Editorial | Our View | June 6, 2017

What’s the result of a halfhearted effort to eliminate a bad habit? More than likely, the habit lingers on and gets worse.

That’s why the City Council should reject the latest version of Bill 59 introduced by Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, chairwoman of the Public Works, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee. It would require retailers to charge customers at least 10 cents for every reusable plastic or recyclable paper bag offered at the checkout counter, with the proceeds going back to the business. Beyond that, it does little to close a loophole in Oahu’s plastic bag ban.

The Council should instead support Councilman Brandon Elefante’s version of the bill. In addition to the bag fee, it calls for plastic bags to be phased out entirely by Jan. 1, 2020, leaving paper bags as an option. The most effective way to reduce the presence of environmentally unfriendly plastic bags here? Simply stop offering them during point-of-sale transactions.

Five years ago Hawaii became the first state nationwide in which each county had in place a ban on single-use plastic bags at groceries and retail shops. However, when the Oahu measure took effect in July 2015, it became apparent that a loophole in the law allows businesses to offer “reusable” plastic sacks that are slightly thicker than the banned filmy bags.

It’s no surprise that business groups such as the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and the Hawaii Food Industry Association back Fuku­naga’s version, which allows indefinite use of the thicker bags and opportunity to pocket the bag fee.

Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, has made the argument that visitors, who typically do not pack a reusable market bag, would be negatively affected by an actual plastic bag ban. To the contrary, it’s more likely that visitors would be pleased to comply with any concerted effort to help protect Hawaii’s natural beauty from the ugliness tied to plastics pollution.

Also, Yamaki has said characterizing allowable plastic bags as “single-use” is off the mark because people use them again as trash bin liners or to clean up animal waste, for instance. Regardless, their petroleum-based composition means they buck the natural biodegrading process — and that’s bad news for the environment.

Groups that undertake litter cleanups say with each passing year, more and more plastics are aggregating on our beaches. Drifting bags can block storm drains and runoff infrastructure. In nearshore waters, harmful plastic wads can end up in the stomachs of marine and stream wildlife.

Both versions of Bill 59 would rightly ban “compostable” plastic bags from checkout counters since Oahu lacks the commercial composting facility needed to cleanly break them down.

However, both versions are overly optimistic in reasoning that by charging at least 10 cents for each bag, customers will quickly say “no” to any type of checkout counter offering. If the Council wants to see a dramatic rise in shoppers toting their own Earth-friendly bags, bump up the fee to 25 cents, 50 cents, or even a dollar.

One thin dime, which is easy for most of us to shrug off at the checkout counter, represents a feeble effort on the city’s part. What’s more: businesses can already charge bag fees. And in many stores that do, you’ll see some shoppers carrying their own green bags from home and at least as many opting to pay the nickel or dime fee for checkout bags.

Further, in stores that have enacted their own real-deal plastic bag bans, such as Target, business booms as usual. The switch away from plastics is possible.

As Oahu’s weak ban nears completion of its second year, the City Council must seize this opportunity to close the law’s gaping loophole by putting in place the 2020 sunset deadline on plastic bags. Period.

Oahu’s spectacular yet fragile environment deserves much better than halfhearted legislation.

Star Advertiser: City Council bills would shut bag-ban loopholes

Honolulu Star Advertiser| By Gordon Y.K. Pang | June 5, 2017

Honolulu City Council members Wednesday will consider two different versions of a bill aimed at closing loopholes in Oahu’s existing plastic bag ban: one supported by business interests and the other by environmental groups.

The latest version of Bill 59 (2016) would require retailers to charge customers at least 10 cents for every reusable plastic or recyclable paper bag issued at checkout, with the proceeds going back to the business. Introduced by Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga, chairwoman of the Public Works, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee, the draft also specifies that the city auditor is to submit to the Council by Jan. 1, 2019, a report evaluating the bag fee’s effectiveness.

A different version being offered by Honolulu City Councilman Brandon Elefante, original author of the bill, also would require merchants to charge 10 cents for plastic or paper bags distributed at checkout. But it calls for plastic bags to be phased out entirely by Jan. 1, 2020, leaving paper bags as an option.

Both versions would eliminate compostable bags from the list of things that are allowed, and both would continue to allow woven, multiple-use plastic bags to be sold.

Elefante first introduced the bill to shore up the existing plastic bag ban. Since the law went into effect July 1, 2015, some retailers have continued to use plastic bags — just of the thicker variety, as allowed. The law bans distribution of plastic bags less than 2.25 mils thick, so some merchants have switched to bags that are 3 mils or thicker.

Business groups, including the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and the Hawaii Food Industry Association, all support Fuku­naga’s version, which continues to allow the thicker bags indefinitely as long as customers pay a dime for each of them.

Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii, said her group opposes a blanket ban and believes both businesses and consumers need to be given more options.

Visitors to Hawaii, especially, would be negatively affected because they don’t typically pack a reusable market bag, she said.

“We’ve got to take that into account,” she said.

Allowing businesses to charge for bags will help encourage more customers to bring in their own reusable sacks, she said.

Yamaki said it’s also a mischaracterization to call the allowable plastic bags “single-use” items. Many people use them subsequently for such things as lining their trash bins or cleaning up animal waste, she said.

Paper bags cost more for merchants, and that needs to be factored into the equation, as well, Yamaki said. It’s also questionable whether paper bags are better for the environment. Yamaki said she’s seen research showing at least some plastic bags biodegrade more readily than paper.

Environmental leaders, however, contend there should be a total ban at some point soon and that Elefante’s version offers a reasonable timeline. Several said it’s simply the powerful lobbying efforts by business interests that have blocked a blanket ban.

“It’s greed, when it comes down to it,” said Kahi Pacarro, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. “Business interests are more interested in the short-term gain rather than the long-term consequences of using a plastic bag that’s made out of material that lasts forever yet is used for only a few minutes.”

Continuing to allow the thicker plastic bags indefinitely is a bad idea because they are actually worse for the environment since they take longer to break down, he said. Pacarro said that in beach cleanups in recent weeks, he’s found at least two that appear to have been bitten by a fish, turtle or other sea creature.

Retailers can’t argue that using paper bags is cost-­prohibitive because they could charge consumers 10 cents each and pocket the profit, Pacarro said.

Rafael Bergstrom, the Surf­rider Foundation’s Oahu chapter coordinator, said the 2020 sunset date for plastic bags gives retailers ample time to use up existing stock.

To continue allowing the thicker bags indefinitely legitimizes their use and could result in more of them being distributed, he said. “We’re saying, ‘They’re now acceptable and you can pay to pollute,’” he said, adding that even those businesses that now don’t use them might begin doing so if they can charge for them.

Bergstrom took issue with Yamaki’s suggestion that paper is less biodegradable than some plastic bags. “Plastic does not biodegrade; their chemical makeup does not allow it,” he said.

Environmental groups knew the initial law allowed for thicker bags, but expected that such loopholes would go away with subsequent legislation, Bergstrom said.

Jodi Malinoski, Oahu coordinator for the Sierra Club of Hawaii, also maintains Elefante’s version strikes a good balance and encourages people to take reusable sacks when they shop.

“The lack of consensus between Council members is ultimately what’s holding up Oahu’s plastic bag ban, and it’s unfortunate because we are an island community where marine plastic pollution is a growing problem,” Malinoski said.

Star Advertiser: Erosion could imperil sewage outfall

Honolulu Star Advertiser | By Gordon Y.K. Pang | June 1, 2017

Shoreline erosion could eventually expose and compromise the Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant outfall pipeline and cause devastating health, environmental and economic consequences, according to city officials.

The decades-long erosion of the shoreline just outside the city’s Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant leaves the facility’s outfall pipeline in a precarious situation where “failure or damage to the outfall could have catastrophic health, environmental and economic consequences,” according to an environmental report made public by the city last month.

To shield the land-side portion of the outfall pipe from damage, the city Department of Environmental Services wants to rebuild a sloping, bermlike barrier “to armor the shoreline” and to shield the land-side portion of the outfall pipe from damage.

City officials insisted that the planned structure, technically called a “revetment,” not be called a wall. It uses materials and a construction form similar to the Kapahulu Groin and the berms that protect the inner portion of Magic Island and the Ko Olina lagoons.

Ross Tanimoto, deputy city environmental services director, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Wednesday that a sea wall is designed to protect the shoreline while the revetment being proposed is aimed at shielding the outfall pipe. “A revetment is usually angled, too, so the waves come up and expend their energy along the inclined area,” he said.

The city needs federal, state and city permits to build the structure, and the draft Environmental Assessment, completed by SSFM International and filed with the state Office of Environmental Quality Control on May 23, concludes the project would not cause any adverse environmental impacts.

Photos and maps included with the report show how the shoreline fronting the plant has eroded dramatically over the past few decades. The study estimates the shoreline receded about 150 feet from 1955 to 2015. While the erosion continues, it appears to be doing so at a slower pace than in the past.

The goal of the $3.7 million project is to protect the 84-inch ocean outfall pipe, the only one of its kind on Oahu.

It extends about 1,450 feet on land before it bends and stretches about 12,500 feet offshore — buried in a trench excavated into the fossil reef. It’s there, about 2.3 miles offshore, that sewage that has been given primary treatment enters the ocean about 200 feet below the surface.

But it’s a 400-foot shoreline section of the pipe that is the source of concern because it is currently only 2.2 feet below grade. “Therefore, the land portion of the outfall is relatively unarmored and vulnerable to damage should the section become exposed to wave activity,” the report said.

Tanimoto said the project should be done sooner rather than later. “To wait to see what sea level is doing to it wouldn’t be prudent,” he said.

During storms, “lots of stuff moves around — rocks, some boulders — that could ram into the pipe if that’s exposed,” Tanimoto said. If left exposed and unprotected, the outfall pipe could even rupture. “Say for example, a boat got run aground along the shoreline, it could ram into the pipe if the pipe was exposed … to prevent that occurrence, we put the revetment over it,” he said.

The outfall is deemed “critical infrastructure” because it discharges 66 million gallons of sewage daily. “The progressive shoreline erosion is a serious potential threat that could eventually expose and compromise the outfall pipeline,” the report said.

The city is proposing to put up a 450-foot revetment, defined in the report as “a sloping, un-cemented structure constructed of wave-resistant materials.” Specifically, there would be a sloping structure consisting of boulder-size rocks sitting atop a mound of smaller rocks and rubble, the report said. It would stretch from near where the outfall extends into the ocean northward along the shoreline to a dredged channel, the report said.

An original revetment was constructed when the outfall was first built in 1975. A “stop gate,” which houses a type of shutoff valve for the pipeline in case of an emergency, was installed more than 150 feet inshore of the shoreline but is now located near the waterline due to erosion, the report said.

“There is concern that continued shoreline erosion, particularly in conjunction with a potential tropical storm, may begin to remove cover material and expose the trench and possibly damage the outfall,” the report said.

The gate itself also is being relocated 20 feet inland, the report said.

The city is hoping to obtain all necessary approvals by June 2019 and have the project completed within six months of that. Estimated cost of construction is $3.7 million.

Jodi Malinoski, Oahu coordinator for the Sierra Club of Hawaii, said her organization is reviewing the draft Environment Assessment and has yet to come up with a formal position.

“We do recognize that this project may be inevitable,” Malinoski said. “But we would encourage our state to do more to prevent climate change and sea level rise.”

If nothing else, she said, the need for the project reinforces the importance for the city to have a fully staffed Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency. After initially cutting seven staff positions for the newly formed office, the Honolulu City Council Budget Committee on May 16 restored the positions. Oahu voters in 2016 approved an amendment to the Honolulu Charter establishing the new agency.

Bill 67 related to Bike Facilities signed into law

Success! Bill 67 (2016), CD1, relating to bicycling facilities, was passed unanimously by the council and signed into law by Mayor Caldwell on Friday, May 26, 2017. The Sierra Club O‘ahu Group and Hawai‘i Bicycling League supported this measure, which requires certain new or converted office buildings located near rail stops in the Transit Oriented Development zone to include showers to accommodate bicycle commuters.

“This law will make it possible for commuters to bike to their neighborhood rail stop on their way to the office, with shower facilities available at work in new buildings,” said Mayor Caldwell.

The idea of providing bicycling facilities for office employees was originally introduced by O‘ahu’s Group’s Gary Gill when he was a Councilmember (nearly 25 years ago) and was re-invented by Councilmember Carol Fukunaga in Bill 67.

“We are thrilled that Honolulu is making great progress in transforming our city into a more bike and pedestrian friendly place to live,” wrote Gary Gill.

Sierra Club’s policy intern and avid biker Will Giese giving testimony in support of Bill 67 related to bike facilities




Star Advertiser: Red Hill fuel tanks need swift remedy

 Honolulu Star Advertiser | Editorial |  Our View  |  Saturday, May 27, 2017

Designed during World War II as a bombproof reserve, Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility houses 20 aging tanks — each large enough to swallow Aloha Tower. It helps serve an ongoing U.S. military need for “uninterrupted access to large volume, secure and sustainable fuel storage facilities” in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific. But it’s also perched just 100 feet above Oahu’s primary aquifer, which supplies drinking water to more than 600,000 residents, from Moanalua to Hawaii Kai.

Concern about its potential to taint drinking water quality shot up in the aftermath of a 27,000-gallon fuel leak in January 2014. The next year, the Navy (Red Hill’s operator) entered into an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Health Department (site regulator) that requires a series of studies and upgrades over a span of 20 years.

The Hawaii Sierra Club rightly contends that pace is too slow, particularly with looming EPA budget cuts under the Trump administration. Given the proposal to cut EPA funding by about 30 percent, we cannot rely heavily on the federal government to protect our environment or public health.

The nonprofit is now applying some needed arm-twisting, to have the Navy speed progress. On Wednesday, it delivered notice to the Department of Health that the agency is in violation of a 1992 state law that required replacement or upgrades of underground systems storing hazardous material by late 1998. The DOH has yet to respond to the petition, which could serve as a prelude to a lawsuit against the state.

For safety’s sake, the Sierra Club and others must continue to force the issue. In addition to complying with the upgrades law, the DOH needs to clearly specify terms for cleanups and decommissioning of all underground tanks in Hawaii, most of which are tiny compared to those under Red Hill. Although the military facility is a hidden feat of engineering — constructed in four years — it was not built to last forever.

It’s frustrating to see that Navy and environmental regulators have yet to even settle on exactly how the tanks would be upgraded. Some state officials and others want what’s now considered the closest thing to a sure-bet seal: a double-walled retrofit. The Navy, which has, in the past, expressed concerns about cost, is weighing new technology and other ideas. At least six options are under review. But three years have passed since the worrisome leak. A selection should be made quickly.

The longer the wait, the more likely it is we’ll see more trouble with the 77-year-old tanks. Studies document leaks dating back to 1947, corrosion of liners, and gauge risk of a catastrophic fuel release, which the Board of Water Supply says could pollute the aquifer and our water supply for many years.

Earlier this year, the Navy assured state lawmakers that the tanks are not leaking. In written testimony, it said: “validated testing confirms, and all parties agree” the drinking water from the shaft is safe. Since the 2014 leak, the Navy has stepped up testing of drinking and groundwater and added monitoring wells. Also, over the past decade, the federal government has made $200 million in improvements, ranging from installation of groundwater and soil vapor monitoring systems to structurally reinforcing and renovating tunnels and passageways.

EPA officials echo a sense of calm in a May status update, which states that drinking water in the area meets federal and state standards, and that recent tests had not detected any fuel leaks.

But catastrophe scenarios — touched off by an earthquake, for example — are unnerving. The BWS estimates that structural failure could sink more than 1 million gallons of fuel into groundwater and potentially several million gallons into Halawa Stream and Pearl Harbor. The semi-autonomous agency that manages Oahu’s municipal water resources wants the Navy to double-line tanks or relocate them away from the aquifer. The Navy and environmental regulators should pick one or the other, and soon.

The very existence of the Red Hill tanks was a state secret until the early 1990s, when the facility was declassified. Now, with its strengths and flaws under glare of public scrutiny, it’s time to finalize a plan of action for the site’s future and promptly get the job done.

Sierra Club Calls on Health Department to Update Fuel Tank Rules to Prevent Leaks

Honolulu, Hawaiʻi (May 24, 2017) — The Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi delivered official notice to the state Department of Health today that their underground storage tank regulations violate a 1992 state statute. The 1992 law states, “Existing underground storage tanks or existing tank systems shall be replaced or upgraded not later than December 22, 1998 to prevent releases for their operating life.” This has not happened according to the Sierra Club.

Marti Townsend, Director of the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi stated, “This requirement applies to all tanks storing hazardous material underground, including the U.S. Navy’s Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage  Facility that leaked 27,000 gallons of jet fuel in 2014.”

The Environmental Protection Agency determined in 1987 that the Southern Oʻahu Basal Aquifer located beneath the Red Hill fuel tanks is the “principal source of drinking water” for the island, and that “if contaminated, would create a significant hazard to public health.” Analysis of the Navy’s spillage reports at the Red Hill facility reveals that more than 200,000 gallons of petroleum products have leaked since the facility was built more than 70 years ago. 

“Storing millions of gallons of fuel in rusty, old tanks just one hundred feet over our aquifer is foolish,” said Sierra Club member and volunteer Erynn Fernandez. “My family and I, like thousands of others, drink this water everyday. These tanks need to be immediately and completely upgraded or relocated because our groundwater is too important to be put at risk like this.”

“Given the proposal to cut the EPA’s budget by 31%, we cannot rely solely on the federal government to protect our environment or the public’s health,” said Townsend. “Updating Health Department rules to fully implement long-standing state law ensures Hawaiʻi has all the authority it needs to protect our environment and the health of our people. Upwards of 225 million gallons of jet fuel is being stored in antiquated, leaky tanks 100 feet above Oʻahu’s most significant drinking water resource. This is unacceptable.”

The Sierra Club presented their findings to Dr. Virginia Pressler, director for the Hawaiʻi Department of Health, in a 68-page petition for rulemaking. Their filing concluded that the state constitution, as well as state statute, require the Department of Health to amend its underground storage tank rules because “existing rules fail to protect the quality of the water that residents drink.”

The state Department of Health has 30 days to act on the Sierra Club’s request, either by starting the public rulemaking process or denying the request.

Star Advertiser: Bill to require fees for checkout bags deferred

Honolulu Star Advertiser | By Jayna Omaye | May 14, 2017

The Honolulu City Council deferred action on a bill Wednesday that would require retailers to charge a fee for checkout bags and ban so-called compostable plastic bags.

Several environmentalists advocating for a ban on plastic checkout bags maintained that Bill 59 does not go far enough to reduce litter and protect marine life. But some retailers contended that a fee would encourage customers to bring their own reusable sacks.

The bill would require retailers to charge at least 10 cents for reusable bags and recyclable paper bags. Businesses would keep the revenue generated from the fee.

Councilwoman Carol Fukunaga’s floor amendments, which were added to the bill, would also ban compostable plastic bags, mandate that police enforce the state’s litter control laws, and require the city auditor to “evaluate the efficacy” of the bag fee and other issues and submit a report to the Council by January 2019.

“This is really intended to try to strike a balance between some of the concerns that have been raised,” she said. “The minimum 10-cent fee is not intended to reimburse retailers for the cost of bags. It’s really to provide a uniform deterrent throughout the community that forces consumers to make conscious choices about whether to pay the fee and purchase a bag or whether to start bringing their own recyclable bags.”

But the bill, introduced by Councilman Brandon Elefante, initially sought to place tighter restrictions on Oahu’s plastic bag ban, which allows compostable plastic bags and reusable plastic bags that are at least 2.25 mils (2.25/1,000 of an inch) thick. The ban, which went into effect in July 2015, exempts plastic bags of all types for prepared baked goods, newspapers and other specific items. Hawaii became the first state to ban single-use plastic checkout bags in all counties.

Elefante had proposed amendments Wednesday that would have banned compostable plastic bags and phased out reusable plastic bags by 2020. He had proposed the same amendments at a Public Works, Infrastructure and Sustainability Committee meeting earlier this month, but those changes were not included in the draft that was passed out by Fukunaga, the committee’s chairwoman. He said he plans to introduce his amendments again.

“Even though there’s provisions in there (Fukunaga’s draft) to require a study, it doesn’t go back to the root of the issue, which is to ban plastic bags,” Elefante said Thursday. “It doesn’t go far enough.”

Council Chairman Ron Menor said a final vote on the bill would be taken at next month’s meeting. The Council voted to approve amending the bill to Fuku- naga’s floor draft with a 5-4 vote.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Lauren Zirbel of the Hawaii Food Industry Association and Tina Yamaki of the Retail Merchants of Hawaii supported the fee proposal as a way to discourage customers from using single-use checkout bags. But they opposed any further cutbacks on plastic bags.

“This (fee) proposal is practical, viable and the preferred option instead of an outright ban on bags,” Yamaki said. “Consumers are already reusing plastic bags.”

But Jodi Malinoski of the Sierra Club of Hawaii Oahu Group said Elefante’s amendments would benefit both businesses, which would keep the revenue from the fee, and the environment.

“Unfortunately when the first bag ban happened there were unintended consequences that we allowed the thicker plastic bags to be given to customers,” Malinoski said. “We are compromising on this. The businesses will get to retain the fee for all the bags that they charge. But the intention of having a fee is so they can invest in paper bags, not to buy more plastic bags.”

ACTION ALERT: Support Bill 25- Office of Climate Change

Testimony needed to support the Office of Climate Change, which has its second budget hearing at the Honolulu City Council on Tuesday, May 16th at 9 am!

Last year, O‘ahu residents voted to create an “Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency” and the Mayor’s office has responded by proposing a new office for 2018 that will have 5 full-time staff, including positions to immediately focus on climate change planning, clean energy projects, and better resiliency for our coastal zones and waterways. Woohoo!

Unfortunately, several Councilmembers have suggested eliminating or greatly reducing funds to support the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency — an office mandated by voters and critical for Honolulu. We must show mass support for this Office now, before the budget process gets even tougher.

How you can immediately help:

Please submit online testimony in support for the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency before Tuesday, May 16, when Bill 25 (2017)- the Executive Operating Budget Bill, will be heard in the City Council’s Budget Committee (agenda here).

Bill 25 (2017) is a comprehensive budget bill that includes a request of $404,388 for the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency and its 5 full-time staff for fiscal year 2018. Joshua Stanbro was recently hired as the Chief Resiliency Officer, or the Executive Director position, and he is a great choice to lead this new Office. However, the remaining budget for the office still needs be approved by the City Council so that Josh can hire additional, supporting staff.

Please take two minutes to submit online support for Honolulu’s NEW “Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency”. Because Bill 25 (2017) is a huge budget bill, you must specifically mention that you are in support of the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency within Bill 25 (2017).

Link to online testimony form HERE.

Details for the online testimony form:

Meeting Date: 05-16-2017

Council/Committee: Budget

Agenda Item: Bill 25 (2017) Proposed CD2

Your Position: Support

Written Testimony: “Aloha Chair Manahan and members of the Budget Committee, My name is ____ and I am a resident of _____. I am in strong support of the proposed CD2 amendments by Councilmember Manahan, specifically in regards to the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency in Bill 25 (2017). Councilmember Manahan’s proposed CD2 will restore the full funding for this new Office ($404,388), of which only $270,000 comes from the General Fund paid by city taxpayers. Oahu residents voted to create this office and the city has been fortunate to receive a 2 year grant to hire the Executive Director position. However, a 1 person office cannot be expected to handle all of the responsibilities of creating our resiliency strategy, focusing on all the effects of climate change, and implementing sustainability projects that will boost our local economy and save city taxpayer’s money.  Last year the City paid a $47 million electricity bill! If the new Energy Project Manager saves less than 1% of the city’s electricity costs through energy efficiency measures, the Energy Project Manager will have paid for the entire new office! This Office has the potential to save the city millions every year. In recognizing the necessity and benefits of the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency, the Honolulu City Council should prioritize its funding. I ask that you support the Office of Climate Change and restore the budget request of $404,388 in Bill 25 (2017).”

Online testimony is very helpful, but if you are able to give oral testimony it would be extremely valuable to have supporters for the “Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resiliency” attend the May 16th Budget Committee meeting. Bill 25 (2017) is the fourth item on the agenda, so it could be heard as early as 9:30 am, or as late as 11:30 am, depending on the discussions of the other agenda items. We hope to see you at this important budget hearing on Tuesday, May 16th!

If you have any questions, feel free to email jodi.malinoski(at)sierraclub.org