New & Noteworthy: Energy PR, Tuna Treaty, Emendations

posted in: April 2016 | 0

Energy Office PR Contract: Although the state’s Energy Office, within the Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism, has a dedicated public information office, it apparently needs to have a public relations firm on call as well. The department has recently decided to award a $100,000 contract for “public relations and marketing support services” to the firm of Milici Valenti Pack Ng, Inc.

Duties include: “key communications messaging” and “social marketing tactics (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.),” writing news releases, op-ed pieces, letters to the editor, and “commentaries, articles, etc.” Also, the firm is to “prepare speeches, talking points, messages, presentations, and fact sheets,” “coordinate and purchase media buys” (advertising, in other words), and “assist with issues management and crisis communications.”

Alan Yonan, the Energy Office’s public information officer, told Environment Hawai`i that the PR contract is nothing new, with the Energy Office having first sought professional assistance in this area in 2009.

Although the language in the scope of work is broad, Yonan continued, as a practical matter, the Energy Office “has only used the contractor to provide services for which it either lacks internal expertise or does not have sufficient manpower.” For example, he said, the office has used contractors to “do the graphic design and layout for many of its external publications, including the annual Energy Resources Coordinator’s report.”

Tuna Treaty Resurrected: The U.S.-flagged purse seine fleet is once more plying the waters of the South Pacific. The three dozen or so boats in the flotilla were in port for the first two months of the year, after their owners balked at paying the high fees that had been negotiated last year – fees of $12,600 for each day spent fishing in waters controlled by 15 small island nations in the region.

In early March, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency and the U.S. State Department came up with a new scheme. Instead of total payments from the U.S. government and vessel owners coming to around $90 million for the year, the payments will total around $66 million. The vessels will have fewer available fishing days in the region, and the Pacific Island countries are now able to sell the freed-up days to other fleets. (For more on the U.S. tuna fleet in the Pacific, see our January 2016 edition.)

Dept. of Emendations, Part I: In January, we erroneously reported that the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission included in its 2016 research plans a proposal by the United States for a study of spatial management options for tropical tunas. Although there had been no objections to the proposal at the time it was raised, it was not formally adopted.

Dept. of Emendations, Part II: In February, we reported on a lawsuit brought against Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HLH) and several affiliated entities. A sidebar, “The Hawaiian Legacy Companies,” described several of those companies, including the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative and stated that its board included HLH founder Jeff Dunster and “three employees of Dunster-related companies.” John Henshaw, one of those board members, informed us that he was not an employee but rather a consultant to Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods.

Dept. of Emendations, Part III, GEMS: In March, we reported on the proposal to use Green Energy Market Securitization (GEMS) program funds to pay for air-conditioning in public-school classrooms. We stated that the legislation which set up the GEMS program “limits loans ‘to private entities, whether corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, or other persons.’ No mention of ‘public sector’ entities appears in either the law or the reports from legislative committees that heard the bill three years ago.”

Tara Young, the executive director of the Hawai`i Green Infrastructure Authority, established to oversee the program, disagrees. “The legislation states that ‘This loan program MAY include loans made to private entities … as well as direct loans to electric utility customers, on terms approved by the authority.’ Please note that the DOE is one of the largest electric utility commercial customers.”

Young also disagrees with the statement in our article that the law does not mention “public sector” entities. “Act 211 amended Section 269-121(b) of Hawai`i Revised Statutes,” Young  wrote. This is the law that established the public benefits fee on Hawaiian Electric customers, a part of which now supports the GEMS program. Young quotes a passage from the public-benefits-fee law, which states: “the state may participate in any clean energy technology, demand response technology, or energy use reduction, and demand-side management infrastructure, programs, and services on the same basis as any other electric consumer.”

Quote of the Month

“I have a little trouble understanding how increasing catch limits is a conservation measure.” 

— John Sibert, fisheries scientist

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