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Environmental caucus touts 10-measure legislative package

HONOLULU — A 10-bill package promoting a wide range of green initiatives is top of mind for the state Legislature’s Environmental Legislation Caucus.

Leaders of the 33-member caucus touted their plans during a virtual press conference Friday.

“This is the third year that the environmental caucus has been in existence, and the second year that we have had a bill package,” said caucus co-chair state Rep. Nicole Lowen of Hawai‘i Island. “… We’re really excited to build on last year’s successes and announce a package of measures focused on reducing emissions that cause climate change, regenerative agriculture, sustainable tourism and protecting Hawai‘i’s natural resources.”

Lowen has introduced bills to update the state’s decarbonization goals by requiring
an economy-wide greenhouse-gas-emissions reduction of 70% over 2005 levels by 2030, and to mandate cost-effective, energy-efficient measures at larger state facilities.

The lawmaker also highlighted a proposed rule to further cesspool conversions throughout the state.

Hawai‘i requires all of its approximately 88,000 cesspools, almost 14,000 of which are on Kaua‘i, to be replaced with septic tanks by 2050.

“The bill we’re introducing this year starts a process of attrition by requiring cesspool conversion at the point of sale of a property,” Lowen said.

The measure also establishes a fully-refundable tax credit of either $15,000, $10,000 or $7,500, depending on the income level of the filer, to help offset the conversion’s cost.

Cesspools are a hot topic on Kaua‘i, where the County Housing Agency is setting up a program to install septic tanks at an estimated 30 to 40 homes, using monies disbursed by the state Department of Health Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

Lowen’s co-chair, state Sen. Mike Gabbard of O‘ahu, pitched three bills on Friday as well.

The first would create “green fees” for visitors using Hawai‘i’s public beaches, parks and trails.

Funds gleaned from the measure would be spent on workforce programs and conservation, natural-resource protection and state-park management.

“These visitor green fees, they could provide ways to enhance job opportunities in terms of creating literally thousands of green jobs and elevating the overall visitor experience as well,” Gabbard claimed. “It’s truly a no-brainer. We should all pay our fair share in protection for our islands’ beauty and bounty, and obviously that includes our tourists.”

Gabbard also promoted a “green amendment” to the state’s Bill of Rights that recognizes individuals’ rights to a clean environment, and an agricultural-soil-health initiative.

Other measures in the caucus’ 2022 bill package include a resolution requesting the U.S. Navy prepare a plan to decommission its Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility, and bills establishing habitat conservation, carbon sequestration and carbon pricing.

Lowen lent a sense of urgency to Friday’s conference.

“With the many environmental challenges we face and the urgency of the climate emergency, the clock is ticking for Hawai‘i to take bold action, and we can’t afford to wait,” she said.

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Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or syunker@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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