Trimmed Lingle energy plan moves
Lawmakers and the governor are focused on reducing Hawaii's dependence on oil
With statistics that show Hawaii relies on imported oil for 77 percent of the energy generated in the state, lawmakers are moving forward with a variety of bills aimed at reducing the isles' reliance on such fossil fuels.
Bills advanced by two House committees aim to promote the use of alternative energies such as biofuels, solar, wind, water and wave power.
Among the measures passed was a package introduced by Gov. Linda Lingle, although lawmakers deleted the sections of her proposals that sought a repeal of the state's gasoline price cap law.
Lingle said that while she is hopeful Senate lawmakers will follow the House and pass some type of suspension or repeal of the gas cap, she was pleased that her main energy package survived largely intact.
"I'm focused on the comprehensive strategic plan much more than I am on the gas cap issue," Lingle said. "If this bill survives close to its current form, it's going to be a very important time for the state as we move away from this overdependence on imported oil and toward more security for our energy and our economic future."
Whether the gas cap survives this session is another matter.
House lawmakers appear ready to pass a bill to suspend the gas cap for 18 months, beginning this July, and in place adopt strict oversight of the oil industry's pricing practices.
Senate Consumer Protection Chairman Ron Menor and Energy Chairman J. Kalani English, whose committees would have jurisdiction over the bill, have said they have no plans to even hold a hearing on that measure.
"At this particular time I don't think the Senate is entertaining the idea of looking at the gas cap repeal," said English (D, East Maui-Lanai-Molokai).
Without a hearing in the Senate, the repeal measure would die unless House lawmakers decide to replace language in a Senate bill with their proposal.
House Consumer Protection Chairman Bob Herkes said support for the suspension is strong enough to have that happen. More than half of the House's 41 Democrats have shown support for a repeal or suspension of the gas cap.
"If they send us something, we'll put our bill in and go to conference," said Herkes (D, Volcano-Kainaliu). "If we can't agree on something, it's status quo and I don't think that that's in anybody's best interest."
Menor noted that the repeal proposal already received a hearing as part of Lingle's energy plan. Both Menor's and English's committees unanimously passed Lingle's bill without the repeal provisions.
"I think that the action taken by the committees demonstrates that I have support in the Senate for my position," said Menor (D, Mililani).
Only Sen. Bob Hogue (R, Kaneohe-Kailua) voiced any opposition, objecting to the removal of the gas cap repeal. He voted in favor of the measure "with reservations," saying he supported the remaining portions of the bill.
Menor and English said they plan to focus in the coming weeks on the broader energy policy of the state.
Lawmakers from both parties along with the Lingle administration have introduced various proposals, such as increasing tax credits for installing solar energy panels at homes or commercial buildings, establishing energy efficient building standards and promoting a hydrogen power industry in the state.
English and Lingle said that having 77 percent of the state's energy coming from imported oil was unacceptable.
"These strategic broad energy proposals that are before the Senate and the House -- they will help us to get energy security in the state," Lingle said.