Hawai‘i State Representatives Cynthia Thielen (R, 50th District: Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) expressed her strong dissatisfaction with the passage of key environmental bills heard in Committee today, noting the vote count shows that Republicans are the “green legislators” advocating for the environment.
During joint decision making by the House Committees on Water, Land & Ocean Resources (WLO) and Energy & Environmental Protection (EEP) this morning, several bills were passed which would have long-lasting impacts on the integrity and preservation of our environmental resources; the Republican Committee members, Representative Cynthia Thielen and Representative Gil Riviere, were the sole voices in opposition.
The bills included HB1813 (exempts any state or county CIP from special management area guidelines and requirements), HB2154 (exempts airports from SMA use permit requirements), and HB2523 (establishes a regulatory structure for the installation and implementation of an interisland high voltage electric transmission cable system and for the construction of on-island transmission infrastructure).
“The Special Management Area bills essentially remove any state or county project from the environmental protections which had been steadfast law and critical to the welfare of our resources,” stated Representative Thielen.
HB2523 (relating to interisland electric transmission cable systems) contained two key areas of language which would place the financial risk and burden on the ratepayers by entitling the electric utility company to recover capital costs for on-island transmission infrastructure, and to recover costs even if they elect not to complete the project, through an automatic rate adjustment and cable surcharge.
“This bill dips deep into the public’s pockets. If we think our electric bill is high now, just wait; this legislation will send it skyrocketing,” Rep. Thielen declared.
Testifiers from government agencies, HECO, and the PUC spoke in support of HB2523, including Governor Neil Abercrombie, however the majority of the submitted testimony was in opposition to the bill.
While all legislators, regardless of party, should be advocating in the best interests of the public and our State resources, today’s Committee hearing showed that the true environmental champions and consumer advocates in the State Legislature are the Republicans.