The purpose of the Environmental Justice Committee is to foster a healthier environment and more active environmental community. The committee seeks to engage collaborative efforts between state health and environmental agencies, the federal government and nonprofit organizations to tackle the intersection of environmental, public health and social challenges.
Red Hill Fuel Storage Tanks
Over the course of the past several decades, the Red Hill Navy fuel tanks have been leaking hazardous chemicals above an aquifer used for drinking water. They are estimated to have released a total of nearly 200,000 gallons of fuel only 100 feet above an aquifer that provides clean water to 600,000 residents in O’ahu. These are the findings of the studies that the U.S Navy has conducted 8 years ago and it is concerning that no real action has yet to be taken by the very institutions that are supposed to be protecting its people.
SB1259: The Environmental Justice Committee is working with the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi to pressure the U.S. Navy, EPA, and State Department of Health to implement safer construction and monitorization of the fuel tanks to protect public drinking water sources from possible contamination. If these expectations cannot be met, then the fuel storage tanks at Red Hill should be retired, and the stored fuel relocated to modern and unhazardous facilities that comply with today’s strict environmental standards.
Clean Ground Transportation
In 2014, almost 30% of petroleum consumed in Hawaii was by ground transportation. With a growing population, it is forecasted that energy use in Hawaii will increase moving forward. The State of Hawaii experiences inflated petroleum prices compared to the rest of the United States, which are expected to increase as oil becomes more difficult to extract. To avoid increasing fossil fuel consumption and volatile energy prices, it is important that Hawaii becomes more independent on its own energy generation. The Environmental Justice Committee is working hard to help Hawaii shift from fossil fuels to alternative methods of energy production and consumption.
SB1186 & HB1580: In parallel with the 100% renewable electricity generation by 2045, the 100% renewable ground transportation bill will help minimize Hawaii’s consumption of fossil fuels. The language does not mandate any particular policy; rather, it offers a strategic way to pilot programs and partnerships to spearhead the clean transportation revolution in Hawaii.
University of Hawaii Microgrid
A microgrid system creates an interconnected relationship between multiple sites to share generated electricity. It ensures that those who do not have the natural resources to conduct sufficient energy from renewable resources can still enjoy their benefits from a satellite source. Currently the electric utility prevents an interexchange of electricity between two parties.
HB848 & SB143: This bill would make the above challenge obsolete for UH, mandating that the utility cannot be involved in the exchange of electricity between campuses. One prominent issue for the Manoa campus is its location - tucked into a valley with frequent cloud cover and rain, solar power would be intermittent and unreliable; however, the UH West O’ahu campus has ample sunlight and land to generate a substantial amount of solar energy. By harvesting clean energy and disbursing it between UH campuses, this bill can help enhance the Governor’s clean energy initiative as well as reduce costs of electricity at UH Manoa.
Oxybenzone is a chemical in most sunscreen and cosmetics that is proven to harm coral reefs when released into the ocean. In addition to its harmful environmental impacts, it may also adversely impact the human hormone system.
Banning polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) Containers
Polystyrene foam, commonly known as Styrofoam, is a non-biodegradable substance that, when released into our natural environment, can harm the surrounding ecosystem. Native and endangered Hawaiian species like albatross mistake small pieces of Styrofoam for food, and cannot digest or regurgitate it to chicks after ingestion. Considering the lifecycle analysis, Styrofoam requires energy-intensive procedures to cultivate its materials, which in turn pollute nearby streams and air.
SB1109: With support from YPDA Hawaii, Sierra Club Hawaii, and Surfrider, this bill has been receiving high volumes of support. It bans food vendors from packaging food in polystyrene foam containers by 7/1/2020 with few exemptions.