PLDC Looks Like Repeal

We did it!

Today, both the House and Senate took decisive steps that likely mean the end of the Public Lands Development Corporation. The House voted to move HB 1133 out of its final committee assignments. The Senate Water Land Committee gutted and replaced SB 707 with verbal amendments that appear to result in a clean repeal of the PLDC. 

Read morePLDC Looks Like Repeal

PLDC – New Name, Same Purpose (Makena Development)

– PLDC –
A new name, same purpose

HB 942 Harbors and Parks Development Authority (HPDA)

Sierra Club Asks Council:
Restore Green to Maui Island Plan

Although Councilmember Elle Cochran made a motion to return green areas to the plan (which the Council had removed), other members blocked the motion.  Here is the Sierra Club testimony.

Sierra Club Maui Group Dec 4, 2012

PO Box 791180

Paia, HI 96779

RE: County Council Meeting of Dec.7, 2012 Agenda Item K.

ORDINANCES – FIRST READING “A BILL FOR AN ORDINANCE AMENDING CHAPTER 2.80B, MAUI COUNTY CODE, RELATING TO THE MAUI ISLAND PLAN”

Aloha Council Chair Mateo and Council Members

On November 27, we asked the Council to support stronger language in Chapter 8

policy 8.3.a

This is the one policy in Chapter 8 that describes how the proposed Protected Areas, now shown on “Diagrams” E-1, NW-1, N-1, NE-1, S-1, SE-1, and WC-1 should be viewed during the County’s planning process.

Currently Policy 8.3.a specifies two things:

1..Diagrams of protected lands should be reviewed when a proposed land use may impact a protected area.

2. The County Council and the Administration should be notified if a protected area may be compromised.

We and many other community groups are concerned that this language does not indicate a clear policy on the County’s commitment to adequately plan for our “green Infrastructure.”

We respectfully ask that the Policy 8.3.a language be amended to include concepts supported by a number of the Alliance of Community Association members. (exact language below)

This would keep the majority of the existing language of Policy 8.3.a. and add two more concepts

1. Direct review bodies to support project development designs that exclude the proposed Protected Areas shown on the diagrams from impacts and give them appropriate protection.

Reason:

—–This language connects the dots and gives a clear planning policy directive. It commits to a reasonable and cost effective preservation strategy through project design (which can include the Transfer of Development Rights referred to in Table 8-2) .

—-It directs County development review to support “smart growth”–growth directed away from natural and cultural resource zones and balanced by preservation. The public supports this approach and Many MIP policies do as well.

  1. Specify that Protected Area on the “Diagrams” are included during the Community Plan update process. This aspect is not mentioned in the current policy language, yet, many of these areas are already on existing Community Plan maps.

Reason:

—Adding this language allows Policy 8.3.a to be consistent with existing community plans.

and gives a specific implementation process for communities and decision makers to follow to implement preservation goals.

Please consider making these important changes before the MIP is passed.

No one understands why the Directed Growth Maps have changed. For five years everyone: public, planning staff and citizen review bodies all supported maps that showed both growth areas and “green” areas. Thats how the decisions to recommend growth boundaries were made. The County Charter calls for the General Plan to include “existing and future land use patterns and planned growth.” Our former maps did this. Preservation is a “land use pattern.”

If the Council is unwilling to revert to the maps the public thought they were supporting: maps with growth balanced by preservation, then the Council MUST act to give Policy 8.3.a meaningful language, such as that suggested below:

Amend MIP policy 8.3.a to read: (proposed new language in bold and underlined)

“The Protected Areas in Diagrams E-1, NW-1, N-1, NE-1, S-1, SE-1, and WC-1 should be concurrently reviewed with Table 8-2 and with any proposed State Land Use, Community Plan Amendment, or County Zoning application or other land use approval that may result in an adverse impact on a Protected Area. The Maui Planning Commission, County Council and the Administration shall support development project designs which exclude the proposed Protected Areas from project impacts and afford them appropriate levels of protection.   Updated Community Plan maps shall include Protected Areas described in the MIP and found on Diagrams E-1, NW-1, N-1, NE-1, S-1, SE-1, and WC-1, or as modified during  CAC review.”

Existing Policy 8.3.a

The Protected Areas in Diagrams E-1, NW-1, N-1, NE-1, S-1, SE-1, and WC-1should be concurrently reviewed with Table 8-2 and with any proposed land uses that may result in an adverse impact on a Protected Area. The County Council and the Administration should be notified if a Protected Area may be compromised by a development proposal.”

Mahalo Nui

Lucienne de Naie, Conservation Chair

Sierra Club, Earthjustice File Legal Challenge to Protect Solar Tax Credit in Hawai‘i

State Tax Proposal Would Slam the Brakes on Solar Energy, Hawai‘i Jobs

HONOLULU – Today, the Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice, filed a legal challenge in state circuit court to the Hawai‘i Department of Taxation’s recent decision to cut back on tax credits for residents and businesses that install solar energy systems. The Department’s new interpretation of the solar credit – which was announced November 9, 2012 and goes into effect January 1, 2013 – will drastically reduce the availability of the Hawai‘i renewable energy tax credit for solar photovoltaic systems and threatens Hawai‘i’s progress in promoting renewable energy and in weaning itself off fossil fuels.

Sierra Club Hawai‘i Chapter Director Robert D. Harris said, “Since the Department announced it was cutting support for solar energy systems, we’ve heard from hundreds of our members across the state who say they will no longer be able to afford to install solar panels on their roofs. We’ve also heard of investors pulling out of several large-scale commercial projects because the reduced credit makes the projects unviable. This goes completely against what the Legislature tried to accomplish in enacting and expanding the solar tax credit.”

The legal challenge says the Department’s new rule conflicts with the law’s aim of encouraging widespread adoption of residential and commercial solar energy systems, which are vital for Hawai‘i to reach its goal of 40% of its energy coming from locally generated, renewable sources by 2030.

Hawai‘i has a strong reason to encourage a shift to renewable energy, especially rooftop solar energy systems. Historically, Hawai‘i has relied on power from imported oil and coal for nearly all of its energy needs, at great expense to homeowners and businesses alike. Bathed in sun year round, Hawai‘i is well positioned to being the first state to shed its dependence on dirty, increasingly expensive fossil fuels.

“The Administration is wrongly slamming the brakes on one of the few success stories in achieving Hawai‘i’s clean energy goals,” said Harris. The Department’s new interpretation would slash the average tax credit to homeowners and businesses that install solar energy systems by about half. It also threatens the future of thousands of solar energy workers in one of Hawai‘i’s strongest growth sectors.

“By suddenly and dramatically clamping down on the solar tax credit, the Department is damaging a major engine of economic growth,” said economist Thomas Loudat. “The solar industry accounts for over 15 percent of all construction expenditures in the state. When those companies start going belly up because folks can’t afford to install solar systems, we’re going to have a lot of unemployed workers, which is going to impose huge costs on Hawai‘i’s taxpayers.”

“Thousands of jobs like mine are at stake,” said Steve Mazur, a solar energy employee and Sierra Club member. “We don’t want to see companies destroyed and livelihoods threatened because Governor Abercrombie simply wasn’t willing to discuss a rational updating of the tax code.”

Among the hardest hit from the rule change are lower-income groups, including many local households that cannot afford to install solar systems without an adequate credit.

“We’ve just gotten to the point where the cost has come down enough for the less well-off to be able to afford or lease solar panels,” said economist Thomas Loudat. “By dramatically cutting the tax credit, the Department of Taxation is jacking the price back up, so that the average Hawai‘i resident is less likely to enjoy the benefits of solar. Those least able to afford it are going to be forced to pay for electricity generated from increasingly expensive fossil fuels.”

The Department changed its interpretation of the solar credit after asking the State Legislature to pass a similar reduction to the credit last session, which the Legislature refused to do.

“In our democracy, the Legislature makes clean energy policy, not the Department of Taxation,” Earthjustice attorney David Henkin said. “If the Department thinks the solar credit law should be changed, it can go to the Legislature and make its case, like everyone else. Until then, its job is to implement the law, not unilaterally – and illegally – change it.”

Hawai`i Chapter of the Sierra Club

Founded in 1968, the Hawai`i Chapter of the Sierra Club is the state’s largest and most active grassroots environmental organization. The Club actively promotes reducing the impacts of global climate change by encouraging the development of clean renewable energy, reducing the use of fossil fuels, and ensuring our fragile native habitat is protected from harm. www.sierraclubhawaii.com

Earthjustice
Earthjustice is the nation’s leading non-profit environmental law firm. The Mid-Pacific Office opened in Honolulu in 1988 and represents environmental, Native Hawaiian, and community organizations. Earthjustice is the only non-profit environmental law firm in Hawai‘i and the Mid-Pacific and does not charge clients for its services. For more information, visit www.earthjustice.org.

[Pau]

# # # #

Governor Announces Drastic Cuts to Solar

State Tax Proposal Would Slam the Brakes on Solar Energy, Jobs in Hawai`i

Sierra Club, Earthjustice call on administration to change course

HONOLULU, HAWAII – Today, Governor Neil Abercrombie announced a drastic, potentially devastating cut to the Hawai`i’s successful tax credit for solar energy. The proposal would reduce by approximately 50 percent the tax credit for homeowners and businesses that install solar energy systems. The solar industry is one of Hawai`i’s strongest growth sectors, and the state’s proposal threatens the future of thousands of workers and jeopardizes recent progress in weaning Hawai`i off dirty, imported fossil fuels.

“The governor should not slam the breaks on solar energy in Hawai`i,” said Sierra Club Hawai`i Chapter Director Robert D. Harris. “The solar industry has been a tremendous success story in our efforts to achieve a clean energy future. A sudden, extreme reduction in the tax credits for residents trying to save money on their electric bills is misguided. It sends the signal that this administration no longer supports aggressive renewable energy adoption in Hawai`i.”
The Abercrombie administration has invoked the Department of Taxation’s authority to issue temporary rules (rules in effect for up to 18 months). The new rules would limit the solar tax credit to $5,000 for the average residential solar power system, effectively cutting the current 35 percent credit in half. This sudden reduction would put solar out of the reach of many families and business owners. The state made the proposal without giving the public and stakeholders the opportunity to weigh in.
“Less well-off groups are currently the most significant installers of solar technology, as opposed to historically, when more affluent groups were installing these systems,” said economist Thomas Loudat. “By dramatically cutting the tax credit, the Department of Taxation’s imposed price increase will make it more expensive for these local households who will not install solar systems and enjoy their benefits. Such households will to continue to purchase electricity generated from increasingly expensive and dirty fossil fuels and not be part of achieving the State’s clean, renewable energy goals.”

“We’ve just gotten to the point where the cost has come down enough for the less well-off to be able to afford or lease solar panels,” said Harris. “This will hurt folks who are trying to save money, while being green.”
The legislature refused to pass a similar reduction to the solar credit last session.
“Having failed to convince the legislature to slash the solar tax credit, the administration is attempting an end-run by issuing — without public input or process — draconian rules,” said Earthjustice attorney David Henkin. “The legislature makes clean energy policy, not the Department of Taxation. These rules are blatantly illegal.”
Governor Abercrombie’s hasty proposal to slash the renewable tax credit would jeopardize Hawai`i’s economy and threaten the state’s status as a leader on solar.
“By suddenly and dramatically clamping down on the solar tax credit, the administration will damage a significant engine of economic growth,” said economist Thomas Loudat. “The solar industry accounts for over 15 percent of all construction expenditures in the state.  A lower tax credit means fewer solar system installations which will lead to local company closures, unemployed workers and fiscal costs in the form of unemployment insurance.”
The Abercrombie administration deliberately refused to work with stakeholders in drafting the temporary rules.
“We and other clean energy stakeholders repeatedly offered to work with the administration, but were rebuffed,” said Harris. “Senator Mike Gabbard even formed a working group to explore possible legislative revisions and carefully craft sound policy, but Governor Abercrombie and his staff were unwilling to hold a public dialogue on one of the state’s key renewable energy programs.”
“Thousands of jobs like mine are at stake,” said Steve Mazur, a solar energy employee and Sierra Club member. “We don’t want to see companies destroyed and livelihoods threatened because Governor Abercrombie simply wasn’t willing to discuss a rational updating of the tax code.”