Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Lawmakers grill University of Hawaii officials on spending, Ellison's Lanai plans probed, Land Use Commission denies Maui development, NextEra says electric grid lacking, attorney general investigates stadium fallout, state cancels Honolulu airport commuter terminal, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

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In what’s become a December tradition, leaders from the University of Hawaii went to the state Capitol on Tuesday to make their case to the House Committee on Higher Education for additional budget appropriations. What UH President David Lassner got — this year and last — was a stern talking-to from Rep. Isaac Choy, who heads the committee. Civil Beat.

The University of Hawai’i briefed lawmakers about additional funding they are requesting for the next fiscal year. Hawaii Public Radio.

The state Public Utilities Commission met behind closed doors Monday for the second time in five days of hearings on Florida-based NextEra Energy Inc.’s proposed $4.3 billion purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaiian Electric Co.’s efforts in reliability are currently poor at best, an executive with a NextEra Energy Inc. subsidiary said Tuesday at the ongoing regulatory hearings regarding the Florida energy giant’s proposed $4.3 billion acquisition of the Honolulu-based utility. Pacific Business News.

When it comes to something as crucial in our lives as electricity, can Hawaii trust outsiders to do the right thing? That was the fundamental question emerging Monday from the high-stakes hearing at the Neal S. Blaisdell Center to decide if NextEra Energy’s proposed $4.3 billion purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries will be approved. Civil Beat.

Fitch Ratings says it expects NextEra Energy Inc.’s proposed $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Industries to be approved and that over the long term the agency sees a bias toward positive rating actions for Hawaiian Electric Co. and HEI under the Florida utility’s ownership. Star-Advertiser.

The state Department of Budget and Finance is recommending that Hawaii Gov. David Ige include about $31 million in his 2017 supplemental budget request to fund public housing repairs and maintenance. That would be six times more than Ige sought last year, but still far less than the total amount needed to upgrade more than 6,000 aging public housing units. Civil Beat.

Hawaii will spend $6.8 million in tobacco settlement funds on anti-smoking campaigns this year. That’s the lowest level in years, and about half what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Hawaii News Now.

The deadline for comment on a proposed bridge between Native Hawaiians and the US Government is closing soon. In the fall the US Department of the Interior proposed establishing a formal government-to-government relationship as part of the reconciliation process.  The proposal would give Native Hawaiians a legal framework that would help the native Hawaiian community work with the US government. Hawaii Public Radio.

Add yet another gig to Colleen Hanabusa’s growing work load: She will teach a course on the topic of “civil liberties in times of crisis” during the spring 2016 semester at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Civil Beat.

In the midst of the third global coral bleaching event on record, local communities can help recovery efforts by curbing soil runoff and protecting herbivores like parrotfish, researchers said. Maui News.

Commentary: Why Can’t Hawaii Spend All That Federal Money? State agencies can’t seem to spend all of the $2.5 billion in federal money they get each year, but they still turn down the offer of help to manage those grants. Civil Beat.

Oahu

The state of Hawaii has canceled plans to build a new commuter terminal at Honolulu International Airport as part of the state's $1.7 billion airport upgrade, which will displace two interisland airlines. Pacific Business News.

Plans to build a new commuter terminal at Honolulu International Airport have been canceled because the project was too pricey. Hawaii News Now.

Hawaii's attorney general is reviewing a letter which says Aloha Stadium defaulted on its agreement with the U.S. women's soccer team. Associated Press.

A class-action lawsuit has been filed over the last-minute cancellation of Sunday's U.S. Women's soccer game, just as the state has launched its own investigation. Hawaii News Now.


The Honolulu City Council is considering hiring the Law Offices of Cary T. Tanaka to defend city Corporation Counsel Donna Leong in a lawsuit brought by the family of Sheldon Haleck, who died in police custody earlier this year. Civil Beat.

Hawaii

Scientists say that last week’s state Supreme Court ruling on the Thirty Meter Telescope puts not only that project’s future in limbo, but also jeopardizes observatories already atop Mauna Kea. Tribune-Herald.

Exports of businesses at Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority played a major role in Hawaii’s aquaculture record-high sales in 2014, the ocean science and technology park’s executive director said. West Hawaii Today.

Maui

The state Land Use Commission on Monday denied acceptance of the Olowalu Town LLC and Olowalu Ekolu LLC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. Maui Now.

After a grueling 11-hour meeting Monday, the state Land Use Commission voted to not approve a draft final environmental impact statement for development of a 1,500-home Olowalu town in West Maui. Maui News.

By a vote of six to one, the Hawaii Land Use Commission  voted late yesterday to reject the Olowalu Town project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. The vote on the decade-old proposal to add 1,500 homes and about 4,000 residents to tiny Olowalu came at the end of a marathon hearing at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center that last around 12 hours. MauiTime.

The state Public Utilities Commission has approved an amended power purchase agreement between Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. and Maui Electric Co. that makes significant changes to the pricing and the commitments of power by the state's last sugar plantation to the utility. Maui News.

Kauai

The county’s wastewater management folks are talking about using treated wastewater to irrigate various chunks of turf in Waimea, and they’re holding a public meeting from 6 to 8 tonight at the Waimea Canyon School cafeteria to bring the public up to speed on the project. Garden Island.

The Kokee Forest Restoration and Recovery Project on Kauai is being recognized by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service for the 2015 Western Regional Forester’s Honor Award. The project is ambitious in that it strives to reforest nearly 1,000 acres of burnt eucalyptus and pine plantations using koa and other native trees and plants. Garden Island.

Lanai

Some longtime Lanai residents aren’t sure how much trust to place in billionaire Larry Ellison, who bought 98 percent of the island in 2012 and hasn’t made any major public appearances on the island. Star-Advertiser.

Business owner Jeremiah Littlepage expects bookings will speed up after the much-improved Manele Bay Hotel reopens in February, especially because Ellison’s purchase generated an incredible amount of awareness about Lanai. Star-Advertiser.

On Lanai, the island’s only visibly homeless man stands in stark contrast to the island’s beachfront resort that’s undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation. Hawaii News Now.

The premier luxury vacation destination on Lanai formerly known as the Manele Bay Hotel is scheduled to reopen Feb. 1 as the Four Seasons Resort Lanai looking ever-more-finely appointed after a $75 million overhaul that included gutting the guestrooms, stripping down the lobby and demolishing the pool. Star-Advertiser.