Defend Hawaiʻi’s streams, stop HB1536!

Please defend Hawaiʻi’s streams, call your legislators to stop HB1536

If HB1536 passes as is, private corporations that sell water for irrigation would be exempt from oversight by the Public Utilities Commission. This means that there would be no regulations, no referee, no one for farmers to rely on to ensure their water prices are fair and their service is adequate. It also means there would be no one for the public to rely on to ensure corporations are not profiting from the distribution of public water.

Why is HB1536 bad?

  • No public oversight would mean private corporations could charge discriminatory, excessive, or uneconomic rates, fail to maintain the systems, unjustly deny service, or impose oppressive terms
    • Small farmers and other customers of these companies would have no protection or recourse
  • Private corporations would be allowed to make unlimited profit from selling water
    • Creating a greater incentive for companies to divert water from public streams
      • Resulting in less water in streams for public use and ecosystems, including traditional and customary practices
  • Currently, there are at least 11 private non-potable water companies that are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission for supplying irrigation water
    • More companies are anticipated to start supplying water as former plantations move into the business of purveying water
  • Our laws make clear that water is not a private commodity for private profit, but a public trust resource for the benefit of all

We know that whoever controls access to water has immense power and influence. The people of Hawaiʻi rely on government agencies like the Public Utilities Commission to maintain fairness where outsized power like this can be easily abused. If passed, HB 1536 would undermine Hawaiʻi’s water laws and leave customers, farmers, and families, vulnerable in the face of powerful water monopolies.

What does the Public Utilities Commission do?

The PUC reviews and approves utilities’ rates and fares, financial transactions, and business dealings, and ensures utilities’ compliance with state and federal laws. In Hawaiʻi, the Public Utilities Commission regulates energy, telecommunications, transportation, and water/wastewater.

How can I help?

HB1536 will reconvene in conference committee TODAY, Friday, April 28, 3:30pm in room 224

We need to continue the momentum on this bill and keep our voices heard. Call the following legislators and ask them to OPPOSE HB1536:

  • Sen. Kouchi: 586-6030
  • Sen. Gabbard: 586-6830
  • Sen. Baker: 586-6070
  • Sen. Keith-Agaran: 586-7344
  • Sen. Shimabukuro: 586-7793
  • Rep. Souki: 586-6100
  • Rep. Yamane: 586-6150
  • Rep. Takumi: 586-6170
  • Rep. Cullen: 586-8490
  • Rep. Say: 586-6900
  • Rep. Thielen: 586-6480

How did we get here?

HB1536 was originally drafted to clarify that irrigation systems regulated by the Department of Agriculture are exempt from Public Utilities Oversight. The bill was then amended to expand that exemption to all irrigation systems not just irrigation projects regulated by the Board of Agriculture.