Friday, January 30, 2015

Hawaii coral recovering from bleaching, auditor blasts Obamacare health exchange, $4.4M added to Honolulu rail cost, Matson to pay $1M for molasses spill, NextEra promises $60M savings, Lanai City to be preserved, bill touts slot machines at airports, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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Endemic Hawaiian white spotted toby amid damaged coral © 2015 All Hawaii News
Three months after Hawaii's corals endured the worst bleaching on record, state officials say island reefs could face conditions later this year that could produce even greater damage. Star-Advertiser.

A state audit released Thursday blasted the Hawaii Health Connector's former head and board of directors for inadequate planning, lack of oversight and improperly awarding contracts worth millions of dollars, resulting in an unsustainable health insurance exchange. Star-Advertiser.

In a biting report released Thursday, the state auditor calls the former head of the Hawaii Health Connector “an uncooperative executive director who withheld information,” hampering the board of directors’ ability to monitor the development of its massive IT system. Civil Beat.

Hawaii’s auditor says inadequate planning at the Hawaii Health Connector led to an unsustainable health exchange. Acting state auditor Jan Yamane made report on the Hawaii Health Connector on Thursday. Associated Press.

High operating costs, lack of strategic plan and misuse of authority made the Hawaii Health Connector unsustainable. That’s according to a new report by the state Office of the Auditor. KHON2.

Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc. made its pitch Thursday for state regulators to approve its purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries, saying it would save ratepayers $60 million over four years, not raise base rates for four years and keep all management local. Star-Advertiser.

NextEra Energy and Hawaiian Electric Industries filed a joint application with Hawaii’s Public Utilities Commission on Thursday seeking approval of their $4.3 billion merger agreement. Civil Beat.

NextEra Energy Inc. and Hawaiian Electric Co. said Thursday that the proposed acquisition of Hawaii's largest utility will save customers about $60 million, and that there will be no request for an increase in general base rates for at least four years following the close of the transaction, according to an application submitted to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission. Pacific Business News.

The Women’s Legislative Caucus, consisting of members from both the State Senate and House, today announced a joint package of measures for the 2015 legislative session. Hawaii Independent.

Hawaii has joined at least three other states in suing the maker and distributor of 5-Hour ENERGY drinks for allegedly making false, misleading and unsubstantiated claims about their products. Star-Advertiser.

Lynne Waters, who served as spokeswoman for the University of Hawaii system since 2011, is leaving Hawaii for a job with the University of Texas at Arlington. Star-Advertiser.

Oahu

While the public braces for the painful budget deficits ahead as rail moves forward, board members overseeing the Oahu project on Thursday approved $4.4 million in added costs to existing rail contracts. Star-Advertiser.

At Least $1.25B Has Been Spent on Rail So Far But Where Has All the Money Gone? The rail project has been in the works for more than 10 years but city and HART officials still can't — or won't — say what the money has been spent on. Secrecy over tens of millions of dollars in payments to subcontractors is only one troubling aspect. Civil Beat.

Trash workers’ payment system racks up major overtime. KHON2.

A federal judge is allowing a shipping company to pay $600,000 in restitution to environmental organizations as part of a sentence for spilling molasses in Honolulu Harbor. Star-Advertiser.

A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a subsidiary of Matson Inc. to pay $1 million in fines and restitution under a plea agreement reached last fall over charges that Hawaii's largest shipping company illegally discharged more than 230,000 gallons of molasses into Honolulu Harbor in 2013. Pacific Business News.

A federal judge is allowing a shipping company to pay $600,000 restitution to environmental organizations as part of a sentence for spilling molasses in Honolulu Harbor. Matson Navigation Co. was sentenced Thursday for criminal charges related to the 233,000-gallon molasses spill that killed more than 26,000 fish and other marine life. Associated Press.

Hawaii

Giving international travelers one last chance to spend money before they leave Hawaii, state Rep. Cindy Evans is proposing slot machines for international departure areas of airports. Evans, D-North Kona, North Kohala, South Kohala, is sponsoring HB 91, allowing the installation of slot machines, first at Honolulu Inter-national Airport, and later, once international flights return to West Hawaii, at Kona International Airport. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

Wesley Lo is Maui region chief executive officer for the state's Hawaii Health Systems Corp. and believes an agreement that his region has been negotiating with a potential private partner, Hawaii Pacific Health, could be a model for statewide application. Star-Advertiser.

Kauai

Nine individuals have been selected to serve as members on a joint fact-finding group tasked with looking into potential health and environmental impacts from pesticide use on Kauai. The $100,000 study, funded by the County of Kauai and the state Department of Agriculture and facilitated by Honolulu planner and mediator Peter Adler’s ACCORD 3.0 Network, is expected to last a year. Garden Island.

Several homeless people are accusing county enforcement of targeting them at a public park. Garden Island.

Kauai coral colonies have started to recover from a statewide bleaching event caused by a drastic spike in ocean temperatures this fall, according to state officials. More of the same, however, is likely right around the corner. Garden Island.

Lanai
A community desire to preserve the historic character of Lanai City moved Maui County Council members Wednesday to recommend approval of conditional rezoning for a 15,000-square-foot property with four plantation-era buildings, including a former police station and courthouse, a single-family residence, a garage/ laundry building and a jail cell. Maui News.