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Bills introduced in wake of molasses spill die

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / SEPT. 10A molasses spill that fouled Hono­lulu Harbor and a federal lawsuit over fuel surcharges slashed Matson Inc.’s profits for the fourth quarter by more than half from last year, but the ocean cargo company still increased its full-year earnings. Above, Placido Shim retrieves fish killed by the molasses spill.
    STAR-ADVERTISER / SEPT. 10
    A molasses spill that fouled Hono­lulu Harbor and a federal lawsuit over fuel surcharges slashed Matson Inc.’s profits for the fourth quarter by more than half from last year, but the ocean cargo company still increased its full-year earnings. Above, Placido Shim retrieves fish killed by the molasses spill.

A massive molasses spill in Honolulu Harbor last fall led state lawmakers to introduce legislation designed to prevent a repeat performance.

But the proposals they crafted failed to survive the 2014 legislative session.

Three bills were introduced in the state House and another two were proposed in the Senate. But all of those measures died in the Senate at various stages, according to the Legislature’s website.

The spill in September killed more than 26,000 fish and other marine life, when about 1,400 tons of molasses dumped into the harbor. It had oozed from a section of pipe that was thought to be sealed off.

One bill (HB 2621) aimed to make government agencies and contractors report issues quickly by creating a maximum time limit for alerting authorities to problems. It also would have required government agencies and contractors to cooperate in investigations. It passed the House but it never got a committee hearing in the Senate.

Another bill (HB 2622) proposed to take money collected from fines imposed on those that violate marine life conservation rules. That money would then be spent on shoring up conservation efforts and protecting the health of coral reefs. It also passed the House, but didn’t get a hearing in the Senate. A companion bill (SB 3017) in the Senate never made it to committee.

The proposal that made it the farthest (HB 2620) would have required the University of Hawaii to update a report laying out the state’s emergency response to spills. The university had done such a report in 1996, but it has not been updated, lawmakers said. That bill passed both chambers but they couldn’t agree on amendments, so the proposal died in a conference committee right before a deadline. Its companion bill (SB 3016) also stalled in the Senate.

Rep. Chris Lee of Kailua and Sen. Mike Gabbard of Kapolei, who introduced the bills, did not immediately return phone calls for comment.

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