Archive for February, 2016

Two-faced utility?

By
February 26th, 2016



Honolulu Star-Advertiser file photo by Krystle Marcellus.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser file photo by Krystle Marcellus.

Several non-profit environmental and solar advocacy groups united their voices this week in protest of the Hawaiian Electric Industries' maneuvers to oppose renewable energy. Although HECO publicly claims to be working toward the state's goal of using 100 percent renewables by 2045, its actions seem to support just the opposite.

It's like having a two-faced utility. HECO's corporate website will tell you it's committed to protecting the environment, with a nice photo of a Hawaiian sea turtle.

And yet, the Clean Energy Coalition points out how HECO is moving Hawaii in the wrong direction, considering:

>> HECO just proposed the building of a 383-megawatt power plant on Oahu to burn liquefied natural gas, or diesel oil, if the NextEra deal is approved.

>> HECO is asking to expand the state's largest coal plant to 189 megawatts, which is equivalent to the power generated by allowing about 6,000 homes to install rooftop solar.

>> Yet HECO just killed a deal for three large solar farms which would have brought more than 100 megawatts of clean and relatively inexpensive energy on to the grid, reducing electricity rates for Oahu residents.

>> HECO fought to slash compensation to residents with rooftop solar and limit the amount of solar that can be installed.

>> On Oahu, HECO has not approved a rooftop solar application under the new Public Utilities Commission tariffs in more than four months.

On Monday, Earthjustice, The Sierra Club, Blue Planet Foundation, Hawaii PV Coalition, Alliance for Solar Choice and Hawaii Solar Energy Association raised the above concerns with Hawaii's largest electrical utilities.

"Hawaii claims to support clean energy," said Marti Townsend, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii. "So why isn't HECO moving forward with real clean energy projects? How can a state-sponsored public utility flout the will of the people and the Legislature?"

Robert Harris, spokesman for the Alliance for Solar Choice, said: "It's time to change the system. We need to look at options, such as putting another entity in charge of running the grid who doesn't produce or sell power. HECO won't change its stripes if it's not in its financial interest to do so."

Rick Reed, president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association, said 96 percent of people in Hawaii believe we should have more solar power, not less.

"Anything that's not meaningfully moving in that direction isn't respecting what the people want: cheaper and cleaner power," he said.

Jeff Mikulina, executive director of the Blue Planet Foundation, said: "It's time to say no to more fossil fuels. It's simply not acceptable for our utility to be proposing new fossil fuels at the same time it's slow down clean, local power."

The Public Utilities Commission resumes a third round of testimony on NextEra Energy Inc.'s proposed $4.3 billion purchase of the state's largest electric utility next week.

Monk seal vaccinations

By
February 22nd, 2016



Juvenile, female monk seal at Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA/Stacie Robinson.

Juvenile, female monk seal at Midway Atoll. Photo courtesy NOAA/Stacie Robinson.

In an effort to further protect endangered Hawaiian monk seals, NOAA Fisheries announced the beginning of routine vaccinations of the pinnipeds on Oahu.

The proactive measure, announced Feb. 19, is part of a concerted effort to protect the monk seals in advance against morbillivirus, a disease which could possibly be passed on to them via unvaccinated dogs with distemper or other marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and other wayward seal species. There is no disease outbreak affecting Hawaiian monk seals at this time.

Morbillivirus, once introduced into seals, can spread rapidly through respiratory secretions. Outbreaks of morbillivirus have caused the deaths of thousands of dolphins and seals in other parts of the world. Hawaiian monk seals are at risk due to a lack of immunity to morbillivirus and poor genetic diversity.

Initial efforts will focus on Oahu, and continue until October.

The outlook for Hawaiian monk seals, is improving, slowly but surely, according to the latest State of the Seal address in mid-February, with the population now at 1,272 compared to about 1,100. More seal pups were born across the archipelago in the last year compared to previous years. Besides vaccinations, officials are intervening with disentanglement and de-hooking efforts.

2060609-151 CTY MONK SEALS On Thursday, June 1, 2006 Hawaiian monk seal R5AY gave birth in a North Shore location. While pups have been born on Rabbit Island for the last three years, this is the first seal born on Oahu in a public area since 1998. NOAA Fisheries Service and Oahu Hawaiian Monk Seal Response Team staff and volunteers moniter the site and monk seals. Basically, all I saw was the monk seals just laying on the sand with the baby moving around the mother. The mother didn't move very much. When she did move, the baby also followed her closely. PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA., JUNE 9, 2006.

On June 1, 2006 Hawaiian monk seal R5AY gave birth in a North Shore location. PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA., JUNE 9, 2006.

The Hawaiian monk seal is one of NOAA's eight selected "Species in the Spotlight" with its own five-year action plan. The other species include the Atlantic Salmon in the Gulf of Maine; central California coast coho; Beluga Whale of Cook inlet; Pacific Leatherback sea turtle; winter-run Chinook of Sacramento River; southern resident Killer Whale and white abalone.

 

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Waste wipeout

By
February 17th, 2016



Waste diversion pop-up tent set up by Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. Courtesy SCH.

Waste diversion pop-up tent set up by Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. Courtesy SCH.

The tally is in.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii released a final analysis of the amount of waste it was able to divert during the 2016 Volcom Pipe Pro at Pipeline from Jan. 28 to Feb. 7. Total: 1,365 pounds.

The grassroots non-profit group set up more than 10 waste diversion systems (pop-up recycling tents) along the coastline and collected the 1,365 pounds over the three-day contest period. Of that total, 1,004 pounds were sent to be recycled or composted, while 361 pounds went to H-POWER. Compostable materials were sent to Waihuena Farm on the North Shore to be transformed into soil.

"Although we primarily focus on plastic pollution issues through coastal cleanups," said Kahi Pacarro, director of SCH, "the partnerships to reduce event impacts on communities means reaching a larger audience to share the issues of over consumption and our throw away culture. We hope our work influences more people to inspect their own waste stream and see where they can reduce the amount of trash they create. Even more, get fired up to join us at an upcoming cleanup!"

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii also set up an Education Station, made from a modified 20-foot shipping container to help educate people about plastic pollution and waste. The station was open to the public every night that the competition ran.

Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's Education Station, made from a modified 20-foot shipping container, serves as a mobile classroom and movie screen to educate others about plastic pollution and marine debris. Courtesy SCH.

Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's Education Station, made from a modified 20-foot shipping container, serves as a mobile classroom and movie screen to educate others about plastic pollution and marine debris. Courtesy SCH.

With thousands of spectators and participants converging on Oahu's North Shore, there's bound to be a lot of throwaway waste, unless the organizers take initiative. The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, designated a Deep Blue Surfing Event for the third year, also made an effort to divert waste from the landfill in partnership with SCH.

Here's the larger picture on waste diversion for all of the Vans Triple Crown of Hawaii, which took place on Oahu's North Shore from Nov. 12 to Dec. 20, with three major surf contests.

>> Triple Crown offered Flowater drinking stations to help divert 36,000 plastic water bottles.

>> Food waste went to Waihuena Farm, an organic farm on the North Shore that turned it into compost. Ke Nui Kitchen, which caters the contest, in turn purchased its produce from the farm, closing the loop.

>> Contest event banners were upcycled into bags and totes by Honolulu manufacturer Mafia Bags.

>> Organizers used 70 percent biodiesel  sourced from Hawaii-based Pacific Biodiesel for its transportation needs.

>> Triple Crown donated $41,000 to local schools, youth education and environmental protection of the North Shore, as well as $40,000 for renovations of the public restrooms at Haleiwa Beach Park.

>> Purchased 944 tons of CO2 offsets from the Valdivian Coastal Conservation Reserve in coastal Chile to offset the carbon footprint of travel, hotel accommodations and energy use to power the events.

Mick Fanning of Australia wins at Sunset. Courtesy World Surf League.

Mick Fanning of Australia wins at Sunset. Courtesy World Surf League.

Posted in beach cleanup, compost, Waste | Comments Off on Waste wipeout

Solar jobs

By
February 12th, 2016



Aiea Public Library's 75-kW system, 6,000 square feet of solar panels are finally up and running. Courtesy image.

Aiea Public Library's 75-kW system, or 6,000 square feet of solar panels (336 in all), are finally up and running more than a year after they were installed. The library had to take measures to protect the community's grid against "possible over-voltage concerns." Courtesy image.

Hawaii ranked fourth in number of solar jobs per capita in 2015, according to a comprehensive Solar Jobs Census released by The Solar Foundation, a Washington DC-based non-profit group this week.

The first-ever Solar Jobs Census offers data on solar jobs in all 50 states, with a breakdown for every state and federal congressional district.

California got top rank for the number of solar jobs, having created more than 20,000 new quality jobs in one year. California also became the first state to surpass the 75,000 jobs benchmark. Massachusetts, meanwhile, came in No. 2, with more than 15,000 solar jobs.

In 2014, the Census counted 2,814 jobs in the state of Hawaii, with the majority located in Honolulu (1,783) followed by Maui (437), Hawaii island (428), Kauai (166). The Hawaii's snapshot also found that the majority of those, or 2,814, were installation related jobs.

The Census counted 162,986 homes powered  by solar and 116 solar companies. It gave Hawaii an "F" Net meter policy grade (most likely due to recent developments doing away with the program), and an "A" for the Interconnection policy grade.

Here's a quick look at who came out on top:

Most Solar Jobs: 1. California 2. Massachusetts 3. Nevada 4.  New York 5. New Jersey

Most Solar Jobs Per Capita: 1. Nevada 2. Massachusetts 3. Vermont 4. Hawaii 5. California

Highest Percent Solar Capacity Growth 2014-15: 1. South Carolina 2. Utah 3. Georgia 4. Oregon 5. New Hampshire

A total of 33 states, including the District of California, saw positive solar jobs growth over the past year. Many states experienced double-digit growth. Find the full report at solarstates.org.

Kaimuki Middle School's parking solar array recently went online, providing the campus with solar power as part of the Department of Education's Ke Hei energy efficiency program. Photo by Nina Wu.

Kaimuki Middle School's parking solar array recently went online, providing the campus with solar power as part of the Department of Education's Ka Hei energy efficiency program. Classrooms at Kaimuki Middle School are air-conditioned. Photo by Nina Wu.

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Food fight

By
February 10th, 2016



The Hawaii Legislature is in full session as of Jan. 20, and once again, various lobbying groups are poised for a food fight.

Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety released the three-minute video above about the future of agriculture in Hawaii, with music composed by Makana. The organization, which published Pesticides in Paradise in May 2015, is advocating for mandatory public pesticide disclosure near schools and child care centers as well as no-spray buffer zones near certain populations and measures to protect pollinating bees in Hawaii.

Here's a quick look at the bills relating to food and farming this session:

>> H.B. 2574: Also known as the pesticide disclosure bill. Requires reporting guidelines for large-scale, outdoor commercial agricultural operations across Hawaii. Makes the state's voluntary pesticide disclosure program mandatory by establishing disclosure and public notification requirements for outdoor application of pesticides in various environmentally sensitive areas, including school grounds and nursing homes. Status: Passed second reading in the house.

>> H.B. 2564: Buffer zone bill. Establishes a no-spray buffer zone around schools and establishes a pilot program of native and regenerative vegetative buffer zones at five schools in the state. The Center supports this bill because, it says, there are at least 27 schools in Hawaii located within a mile of fields where agri-chemical companies like Monsanto and Dow Chemical spray restricted-use pesticides. Hearing held yesterday, Feb. 9.

>> H.B.1594: Calls for following the steps set forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to eliminate the use of neonicotinoid insecticides  on the statewide natural area reserves system to protect Hawaii's honeybees, native bees and other pollinators.

>> S.B. 2385: Seeks to ban sugar-sweetened beverages at child care facilities in Hawaii due to the fact that more than one in four kindergarteners in the state is overweight or obese and high rates of tooth decay. Research shows that healthy habits are formed in early childhood years. "It is in the best interest of Hawaii's children to set standards which ensure that healthy beverages are served in child care facilities."

>> S.B.2513: Appropriates funds to support three additional inspector positions within the Hawaii Department of Agriculture's pesticides branch on Oahu.

>> H.B.849: Called the Right to Farm bill, this bill seeks to block any local governments from passing laws, ordinances or resolutions that "abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural practices not prohibited by federal or state law, rules, or regulations." It's a direct response to a ballot initiative that Maui County residents voted for in November 2014, calling for a moratorium on genetically engineered crops until further study of its impacts on public health and environment. A federal judge invalidated the ordinance last year.

The bills can be tracked at protectourkeiki.org/bill-tracking.

Related VIDEO:

Dr. Ryan Lee, pediatric neurologist at Shriner's Hospital for Children, testifying in support of a bill for a buffer zone last year

Posted in Food, GMOs | Comments Off on Food fight

Our plastic lives

By
February 5th, 2016



The World Economic Forum's latest study predicts there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050. Photo from firmm.org.

The World Economic Forum's latest study predicts there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
Photo from firmm.org.

It's hard to imagine a life without plastic.

Even if you're conscious about plastic pollution issues and the amount of plastic debris in the oceans, there is plastic in your life.

If you drive a Toyota Prius hybrid, you're driving around in a car with parts made from plastic.  If you have an Apple laptop, you're typing on a keyboard made from plastic. If you've got a kid in school, plastic Ziploc bags were probably on the list of school supplies to buy at the beginning of the year.

You buy something from Costco, and chances are it's wrapped in plastic even if you carted it home in a cardboard box. It's a material that has so many uses, and I've got to admit that when it comes to picking up dog poop, you want something like a plastic bag to pick it up with.

But it's also mind-boggling when you learn that the world's oceans are on track to contain more plastic than fish (by weight) in 2050, as predicted by the latest report released by the World Economic Forum.

The report also finds:

>> The use of plastics has increased twenty-fold in the past half-century is expected to double again in the next 20 years. Plastic packaging represents about a third of the total volume of plastics used.

>> After a short, first use, about $80 to $120 billion in plastic packaging material is lost to the economy. Only about 14 percent of plastic packaging is actually collected for recycling.

>> Each year, at least 8 million tons of plastics end up in the ocean, the equivalent of one garbage truck dumping its contents into the ocean every minute. If business continues as usual, the ocean is expected to contain more plastics than fish in weight by 2050.

There's a solution to all this, though, according to the WEF, if we embrace a New Plastic Economy where plastics never become waste, but re-enter the economy as items of value. If we were to reduce all of the plastic packaging that we toss away, but adopt more reusable packaging. Plastic packaging producers and plastics manufacturers would play a critical role.

The new "Plastic Fantastic?" exhibit opened at the Honolulu Museum of Art's Spalding House on Wednesday, Feb. 3. It offers a historical retrospective on the use of plastics over the last century, but also offers us a glimpse of the material through contemporary art. It's up until July 10.

What do you do to reduce your use of plastic? 

This sculptural piece made from reused plastics is by artist Aurora Robson. It's entitled "Midas." Courtesy Aurora Robson.

This sculptural piece made from reused plastics is by artist Aurora Robson. It's entitled "Midas."
Courtesy Aurora Robson.

Singer Jack Johnson with students from Kamaile Academy examine a photo of an albatross carcass from Midway by Seattle artist Chris Jordan on display at the Plastic Fantastic? exhibit at Spalding House. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Singer Jack Johnson with students from Kamaile Academy examine a photo of an albatross carcass from Midway by Seattle artist Chris Jordan on display at the Plastic Fantastic? exhibit at Spalding House. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Kim and Jack Johnson talk about the new Plastic Fantastic exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art's Spalding House. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Kim and Jack Johnson talk about the new Plastic Fantastic exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art's Spalding House. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Works of art by New York artist Aurora Robson suspended from the ceiling at Spalding House's Plastic Fantastic exhibit. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Works of art by New York artist Aurora Robson suspended from the ceiling at Spalding House's Plastic Fantastic exhibit. Photo by Dennis Oda.

 

Jack Johnson, Kim Johnson, founders of the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation and Aaron Padilla, curator of Spalding House, pose before one of the sculptures before it was unpacked for the Plastic Fantastic exhibit. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Jack Johnson, Kim Johnson, founders of the Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation and Aaron Padilla, curator of Spalding House, pose before one of the sculptures before it was unpacked for the Plastic Fantastic exhibit. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Related video:

Posted in Lifestyle, marine debris, Plastic | Comments Off on Our plastic lives

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