State briefs for June 8

Officials OK higher penalty on illegal vacation rentals

WAILUKU, Maui (AP) — A Maui committee has approved a charter amendment that would increase the penalty for illegal vacation rentals to $20,000.

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The Maui County Council committee voted Tuesday in favor of the measure that increases the fine for illegal transient accommodations and tacks on $10,000 for each day the unlawful operation continues.

The maximum penalty is currently $1,000 for an illegal transient accommodation, which includes short-term rental homes and bed-and-breakfast establishments operating without permits.

With the Policy, Economic Development and Agriculture Committee’s approval Tuesday, the amendment will be forwarded to the council for consideration.

The council will give the measure two public readings and then decide whether to bring the measure before voters.

The amendment would go into effect in January if voters approve it.

“Most of us over the years have been quite frustrated with the challenges of enforcement against the illegal (vacation rentals). and so this is simply one additional tool to place in (the Planning Department’s) tool box that increases the potential fine for somebody who has been served with a notice of violation,” council Chairman Mike White said.

Heat-trapping carbon dioxide levels in air hit another high

WASHINGTON (AP) — The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air peaked again this year at record levels, scientists reported Thursday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday that carbon dioxide levels averaged 411.25 parts per million in May at the federal Mauna Loa observatory on the Big Island, up from 409.65 a year ago.

The Scripps Institution for Oceanography, where scientists first started tracking the gas, found a similar increase.

May is traditionally the highest month for carbon dioxide levels; in late spring and summer, plants suck the heat-trapping gas out of the air.

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The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has increased nearly 26 percent in 50 years. Burning coal, gas and oil emits carbon dioxide, which is a major greenhouse gas.

NOAA greenhouse gas monitoring chief Pieter Tans said the rate of increase from last year is a little less than past years but much more than it was in the 1990s.

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