Maui News

Hawaiʻi Legislature Passes Key Measures Supported by Environmental Caucus

May 10, 2021, 1:36 PM HST
* Updated May 10, 1:37 PM
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The Hawaiʻi Legislature passed House Bill 553, which prohibits intentionally capturing, entangling or killing a shark in state marine waters. File photo of blacktip sharks.

With the adjournment of the 2021 legislative session, the Hawaiʻi State Legislature passed important measures regarding energy efficiency, clean transportation, natural resource protection and sea level rise adaptation that were prioritized by the Environmental Legislative Caucus.

House Bill 552, which was introduced as part of the caucus’ bill package, transitions the State’s light-duty vehicle fleet to 100% zero-emissions vehicles by 2030 for passenger cars and 2035 for other light-duty vehicles.

House Bill 1142 will provide a permanent funding source for the Electric Vehicle Charging System Rebate Program, which already has been successful in increasing EV charging opportunities in the State.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector is a key component in our fight against climate change,” said Rep. Nicole Lowen (House District 6), who co-chairs the Environmental Legislative Caucus. “Our state has the opportunity to lead by example while we work to increase the buildout of electric vehicle charging infrastructure for our residents.”

Another caucus bill that passed the Legislature is House Bill 553, which prohibits intentionally capturing, entangling or killing a shark in state marine waters. This legislation adds protections for sharks, which are crucial to maintaining balanced, healthy ocean ecosystems.

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Sen. Mike Gabbard (Senate District 20), who also co-chairs the caucus, said: “Eleven years ago, we passed a landmark law to prohibit the finning of sharks and the sale of shark fins and fin products—a cruel practice that drives the massive scale killing of these important apex predators. Unfortunately, that effort did not extend to protecting whole sharks from commercial exploitation or intentional killing. HB 553 extends these protections to the sacred manō, ‘aumakua to many Native Hawaiian families.”

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Sea level rise adaptation bills supported by the caucus include Senate Bill 474, introduced by Sen. Keith-Agaran, which requires real estate transactions to include a disclosure if a property lies within the sea level rise exposure area, and House Bill 243, introduced by Rep. David Tarnas, which requires State agencies to identify facilities that are vulnerable to sea level rise to assess possible mitigation options.

Measures pertaining to waste management and combatting climate change also were supported by the caucus. House Bill 1102, introduced by Speaker Scott Saiki, prohibits the intentional release of balloons that are filled with gas that is lighter than air and seeks to reduce marine debris that is hazardous to marine life.

House Bill 1333, introduced by Rep. Lisa Kitagawa, requires a study be done on the best practices for the disposal, recycling or secondary use of clean energy products in the State. House Concurrent Resolution 27 ensures that the state’s recyclable waste is transported to destinations that abide by certain human and environmental health and safety standards.

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With the adoption of Senate Concurrent Resolution 44, Hawaiʻi became the first state in the nation to declare a climate emergency. Resolutions have been adopted in their final form and bills are awaiting the governor’s signature.

The Environmental Legislative Caucus has 24 House members and 14 Senators.

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