Legislature launches environmental caucus

HONOLULU — To encourage legislative action on pressing environmental issues, the state Legislature has formed an Environmental Legislative Caucus.

The caucus is co-chaired by Rep. Nicole Lowen, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection, and Sen. Mike Gabbard, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Environment.

“Hawaii is a global leader on environmental, climate and energy policy,” said Lowen (D-Kailua-Kona, Holualoa), “but with the challenges we face today, we need to do more, faster. It’s my hope that the creation of an Environmental Legislative Caucus will bring renewed focus and collaboration to the passage of needed environmental legislation.”

Twenty-two representatives and 14 senators are interested in joining the caucus, including Kauai Reps. Dee Morikawa and Nadine K. Nakamura.

Climate change, adaptation to sea-level rise, resilience to natural disasters, forest and coral-reef protection, and reducing the use of fossil fuels in the transportation and energy sectors were identified as issues to prioritize for legislative action this session.

The caucus also recognized the need to address issues related to invasive species, drinking-water safety, solid-waste management, cesspools, and inclusion of environmental-justice concerns in policymaking.

“The caucus will build on legislation passed in recent years that has made Hawaiii a leader in environmental policy,” a press release said.

It was the first state to pass a 100%-clean-energy goal and to ban the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos. Hawaii was also the first to protect its reefs from harmful sunscreen chemicals.

The state is also on target to beat 2020 greenhouse-gas-emissions goals, according to a new report that projects continued decline in emissions below 1990 levels for 2020 and 2025.

The Hawaii Greenhouse Gas Emissions Report for 2016 contains the most recent data released by the state Department of Health Clean Air Branch.

Projections in the report, prepared by ICF, a global consulting and digital services provider, and the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization for the DOH, indicate Hawaii is on target to meet the state’s goal established by the Legislature in 2007 to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to be equal to or below 1990 levels.

“Hawaii remains on the right path to mitigate the effects of climate change, and we must continue to stay on track,” said Dr. Bruce Anderson, DOH director. “The Department of Health requires greenhouse-gas-emission caps for the largest stationary sources of air pollution, and major sources of greenhouse gas emissions are taking responsibility for implementing the reductions. Everyone must do their part to continue these efforts.”

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