Thursday, February 11, 2016

Thirty Meter Telescope could leave Hawaii; lawmakers mull general excise tax hikes, GMO fish bans, $100M for cool schools; charter school head to resign; Honolulu police has backlog of 1,500 untested rape kits; geothermal contract nixed; Maui sugar layoffs looming; lobbyist disclosure bill on Kauai, more news from all the Hawaiian Islands

artists's conceptual drawing
Conceptual drawing of Thirty Meter Telescope, courtesy photo
Thirty-Meter Telescope project officials say they’re beginning to review possible sites outside Hawaii, and say they could pull out of the state if they don’t get a clear path to approval soon. Hawaii News Now.

Ed Stone, Thirty Meter Telescope executive director, said in an interview Wednesday that the $1.4 billion project will need assurances from the state that it can obtain a permit for unhindered construction on Mauna Kea no later than September 2017 — or it will take its next-generation telescope to another mountain. Star-Advertiser.

When state Sen. Roz Baker announced in her committee room Wednesday that her colleagues had agreed to a plan to increase the general excise tax to help long-term care providers, supporters applauded and issued heartfelt thanks. Civil Beat.

Lawmakers gave initial approval Wednesday to legislation that would provide the tens of millions of dollars needed for Gov. David Ige’s aggressive plan to cool 1,000 public school classrooms by the end of the year. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii lawmakers say they don't want genetically engineered fish grown in the islands. Lawmakers are moving forward with a bill to ban farming genetically engineered fish, which critics dub "frankenfish." KITV4.

The head of a state agency tasked with implementing sweeping legislative changes to Hawaii’s charter school system is resigning in the midst of pushback from school leaders who say they are being over-regulated. Civil Beat.

The House Transportation Committee unanimously passed a measure Wednesday to require annual inspections and registration for mopeds. Civil Beat.

The state Health Department’s selection process for medical marijuana license applicants is layered in secrecy. The department won’t identify the people who are deciding who will get the coveted licenses, and it also won’t say who appointed those people to a selection committee. Civil Beat.

The state is remaining tight-lipped about details surrounding its budding medical marijuana dispensary program — and so are most of the applicants. Tribune-Herald.

Twenty days into generally amiable regulatory hearings about NextEra Energy’s proposed $4.3 billion purchase of Hawaiian Electric Industries, the tone of the hearings has become decidedly less civil. Civil Beat.

The regulatory hearings regarding NextEra Energy Inc.’s proposed $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Co., recessed on Wednesday and are scheduled to resume on the last day of the month for one week, the chairman of the Hawaii Public Utilities said Wednesday. Pacific Business News.

Oahu

The Honolulu Police Department has 1,500 rape kits dating back more than a decade that haven’t been tested, a spokeswoman for the department confirmed Wednesday afternoon. Star-Advertiser.

More than 1,000 rape kits are sitting at the Honolulu Police Department’s crime lab, waiting to be tested. KHON2.

The State dedicated a refurbished rental building overlooking historic Pearl Harbor today. Hawaii Public Radio.

Thousands of spectators gathered at Waimea Bay early Wednesday for “The Eddie,” but the monster waves that were expected didn’t arrive on time — prompting organizers to cancel the competition’s highly anticipated run. Star-Advertiser.

City officials say a “no tolerance” parking ban will be in place along all streets and road shoulders in Lanikai this Presidents Day weekend. Star-Advertiser.

Hawaii

Nevada’s Ormat Technologies, which was awarded a contract by Hawaii Electric Light Co. to develop a 25-megawatt geothermal energy project on Hawaii’s Big Island, has withdrawn from contract negotiations with the utility, HELCO said Wednesday. Pacific Business News.

After a year of negotiations, Ormat has withdrawn from contract talks with Hawaii Electric Light Co. for providing the next 25 megawatts of geothermal power on Hawaii Island, the utility announced Wednesday. Tribune-Herald.

The Hawaii Island Energy Cooperative has produced a plan that it says could satisfy nearly 100 percent of the Big Island’s electricity needs with renewable energy before 2045. Civil Beat.

Puna Councilman Dan Paleka was cleared by the county Board of Ethics on Wednesday to accept a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with a nonprofit group on alternatives to incarceration for the mentally ill. West Hawaii Today.

A new dengue fever risk map shows the Captain Cook area of South Kona has been downgraded from “red” – or high risk – to “orange” – or moderate risk for acquiring the mosquito-borne disease. Big Island Video News.

Three years after it closed its doors for renovations, the 18-hole oceanside golf course at Kona Country Club is now open for business. West Hawaii Today.

Hawaiian Style Cafe, a popular Hilo restaurant will pay more than $53,000 in unpaid wages and damages to employees after being found in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Tribune-Herald.

Maui
Warren Haruki, chief executive officer of Maui Land & Pineapple Co., sees Maui at an “inflection point” and talked to Pacific Business News about some of the challenges that will face Alexander & Baldwin Inc. after sugar.

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., which will be shutting down operations at the end of the year, has announced its first set of layoffs. Ninety-five workers will lose their jobs on March 7, company officials said Tuesday. Maui News.

Kauai

Two Kauai residents testified against proposed legislation that sets up regulations for lobbyists on the island at a public hearing on Wednesday, and the County Council received 55 written testimonies on Bill 2614. Garden Island.

By Tuesday afternoon, thousands of dead fish were reported along the beaches, according to Don Heacock, Kauai district aquatic biologist with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. The aquatic carcasses were also reported at the mouths of Kinikini Ditch, which follows along the Pacific Missile Range Facility, and MacArthur Park Ditch. Garden Island.