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New laws bolster sustainability

  • IGE

Gov. David Ige on Friday afternoon signed seven bills into law that he said were aimed at meeting goals outlined in the state’s 2050 Sustainability Plan.

Ige praised the state Legislature for passing the bill package, saying, “The bottom line is, we have a collective commitment to meeting Hawaii’s statewide sustainability and climate goals.”

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Three of the measures signed at Washington Place, the governor’s mansion in Honolulu, were agriculture related.

“We have set a goal of doubling food production,” Ige said. “… If we can create a market for our local farmers, they will fill it,” he said.

Senate Bill 512 eliminates a daily $10 cap on a dollar-for-dollar match for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program beneficiaries under DA BUX Double Up Food program for purchases of Hawaii-grown produce and what the measure calls “healthy proteins.”

The legislation is aimed at making fresh produce more readily available to SNAP participants to help combat obesity and chronic disease, and to provide an economic boost to farmers, many of whom have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We do know that when (local families) buy products locally, they create jobs locally,” Ige said.

House Bill 817 mandates incremental increases in locally produced food products purchased by state agencies, culminating in the requirement that 50% of food procured by the state be locally produced by 2050.

“This is not a short-term bill. This is not a tomorrow bill. This is a generational bill,” said Rep. Scott Matayoshi, a windward Oahu Democrat who introduced the legislation. “This is a 30-year bill in order to get our agricultural industry back into fighting shape — where it needs to be to be another pillar of our economy.”

Ige said the bill “sends a clear market signal that the state is serious about leading by example.”

“We intend to purchase local, because we hope to encourage everyone to purchase local,” he said.

And Senate Bill 767 mandates that by 2030, 30% of the food served in public school meals be locally produced.

Rep. Ty Cullen, a leeward Oahu Democrat who introduced the bill, said the law “will get more local produce … into our schools to provide healthier eating options … for the future generations.”

“This bill is about not only feeding our keiki healthier foods … this bill is truly about making Hawaii more food secure (and) building our food system to be resilient and sustainable,” he said.

Two other measures signed into law are aimed at climate change and the threat posed by sea-level rise as global warming intensifies.

Rep. David Tarnas, a Kohala Democrat, introduced House Bill 243. It requires the Office of Planning and other state agencies to identify critical infrastructure vulnerable to sea level rise, assess mitigation options, and submit yearly progress reports to the governor, Legislature, and the Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Commission.

“Climate change poses an immediate and long-term threat to our state’s economy, to sustainability, to security and our way of life — and it’s one of the most challenging issues that we have to face,” said Tarnas. “… We need to be prepared to protect these public assets, and it’s urgent.”

Senate Bill 474 requires that sellers in real estate transactions disclose if residential properties being sold are within a sea-level-rise exposure area.

“That means that the buyer is aware, and will consider whether this risk is acceptable when they purchase the property,” said Tarnas. “It’s all about disclosure. It’s all about the seller and the buyer and making sure we’re all on the same page, that everyone is going into this with their eyes wide open — so there’s no surprises when storm events come in and take away some of the shoreline that the homeowner thought was there forever.”

House Bill 683, introduced by Rep. Mark Nakashima, a Hamakua Democrat, establishes a sustainable aviation fuel program to provide matching grants to Hawaii small businesses developing biofuels for aviation.

“Nearly one-third of energy consumed in our state is from jet fuel,” said Nakashima. “It is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The availability of a cleaner aviation fuel will be a step toward reducing global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions, and potentially will create a new manufacturing opportunity within the state.”

“Every airline serving Hawaii today is committed to doing what they can to reduce their greenhouse gas impact,” added Ige. “They don’t have many options today, but they are willing and able to make significant investments to get clean, renewable aviation fuel.”

House Bill 1176 allocates $5 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to create what the legislation calls a “green job youth corps program” for adults ages 20 to 40, to provide paid internships in “natural resource management, agriculture, conservation, renewable energy, or other sustainability professions.”

“We have neglected to invest in our human capital, our local population,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Sean Quinlan, a North Shore Democrat, citing that as a factor in Hawaii’s failure to diversity its economy. “And that’s what this green jobs corps bill aims to change.

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“We’re going to train local people for the green jobs of the future.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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