S.B. NO.














Relating to underground utility lines.





     SECTION 1.  The legislature finds that the power grid and communication systems become ever more critical to modern life, and that grid resiliency and system reliability are essential for public health, safety, and general welfare.  Utility poles, commonly known as telephone poles for the days when wired telephones and fax machines were state-of-the-art communications, are vulnerable to damage from wind, fire, flood, termites, and other hazards.  Hawaii's natural beauty is adversely impacted by the ongoing installation and replacement of utility poles, with each generation taller and more intrusive than the earlier generation.

     The legislature further finds that underground utilities have been required in all new residential and commercial developments for decades.  These types of utilities provide a better living environment, improve the visual aesthetic of natural beauty, are less vulnerable to service interruptions, and less expensive to maintain over time.  Grid resiliency and communication reliability are paramount for the increasing interconnectivity of modern life.

     The legislature believes now is the appropriate time to begin complete underground conversion of utility lines, with the full understanding that some areas may not be appropriate due to cost or geological variables.  However, other areas would greatly benefit from enhanced reliability and cost performance.  Such an initiative is achievable.  The city of San Diego has developed the utilities undergrounding program, operational since 2003, with the goal of relocating approximately fifteen miles of overhead utility lines throughout the city each year.

     The purpose of this Act is to establish a working group to develop a comprehensive statewide plan for undergrounding utility lines.  This Act shall be known as the 2050 service utilities undergrounding program for expanded resilience.

     SECTION 2.  (a)  There is established, within the office of the governor for administrative purposes, a working group to develop a comprehensive statewide plan for undergrounding utility lines and studying the feasibility and relevant cost factors of implementing the plan while taking into account system reliability and the life cycle costs of overhead to determine the State's optimal utility network by 2050.

     (b)  The working group members shall be appointed by the governor, in consultation with the department of land and natural resources, and shall include:

     (1)  The director of commerce and consumer affairs, or the director's designee;

     (2)  A commissioner from the public utilities commission, or the commissioner's designee; and

     (3)  Representatives from utilities, non-profit, and community groups.

     (c)  Members of working group shall receive no compensation for their service on the working group but shall be reimbursed for reasonable expenses incurred, including travel expenses, related to their service on the working group.

     (d)  The working group shall convene no later than ninety days after the effective date of this Act and shall meet on a regular basis.

     (e)  The working group shall report its findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the regular session of 2023.

     (f)  The office of the governor and the department of land and natural resources shall provide administrative support upon request from the working group.

     (g)  The working group shall be dissolved on December 31, 2022.

     SECTION 3.  There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $50,000 or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2020-2021 for the working group to carry out studies that may need to be performed as part of its comprehensive plan.

     The sum appropriated shall be expended by the department of land and natural resources for the purposes of this Act.

     SECTION 4.  This Act shall take effect upon its approval; provided that section 3 shall take effect on July 1, 2020.














Report Title:

Working Group; Underground Utility Lines; Appropriation



Establishes a working group to develop a comprehensive statewide plan for undergrounding utility lines.  Appropriates funds.




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