Voluntary Undergrd Util Fund

Authorizes the PUC to establish a voluntary contribution fund to
place utility lines underground; adopt rules; provides matching
grants to state and county agencies; requires construction in
accordance with certain standards; requires a public hearing in
the relevant county.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES                H.B. NO.           
TWENTIETH LEGISLATURE, 2000                                
STATE OF HAWAII                                            

                   A  BILL  FOR  AN  ACT



 1      SECTION 1.  The legislature finds that utility lines provide
 2 services essential to modern life, including telecommunications,
 3 cable television, electricity, and street lighting.  In recent
 4 years, there has been increased public interest in installing
 5 overhead lines underground for aesthetic benefits.  However, due
 6 to the significantly higher cost to place utility lines
 7 underground, Hawaii's utility systems and rates historically have
 8 been based on a less-expensive overhead standard.
 9      The legislature also finds that including the cost of
10 underground installation of utility lines in utility rates can
11 harm customers, particularly those less well off who pay a higher
12 proportion of their incomes for utility services.  The financial
13 burden will be compounded by the higher cost of goods and
14 services of businesses who will pass on the rate increase to
15 consumers.
16      The legislature further finds that while some customers are
17 unable to pay increased rates that would result from underground
18 installation of utility lines, others have expressed a desire to
19 voluntarily pay more for utility services in order to do so.  It

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 1 is therefore appropriate to provide utility ratepayers who are
 2 able and willing to pay with the means to do so.  The purpose of
 3 this Act is to establish a fund into which utility consumers can
 4 voluntarily make contributions for the purpose of underground
 5 installation of utility lines.
 6      SECTION 2.  Chapter 269, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended
 7 by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to
 8 read as follows:
 9      "269-     Underground utility lines fund.  (a)  There is
10 established a voluntary contribution fund to be known as the
11 underground utility lines fund to be administered by the public
12 utilities commission.  Moneys collected for the underground
13 utility lines fund are to be used solely for installing overhead
14 utility lines underground.  No moneys from this fund shall be
15 transferred to or lapse into the state general fund.
16      (b)  The commission shall adopt rules regarding the
17 collection and distribution of moneys from the fund, including
18 but not limited to, collection of voluntary contributions from
19 utility customers through customers' utility bills.
20      (c)  State and county agencies may apply to the commission
21 for grants of moneys from the fund on a fifty-fifty matching
22 basis for projects to install utility lines underground.
23 Provided sufficient funds are available, the commission may also

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 1 allow a community to apply for grants of money from the fund if
 2 the community and a state or county agency each provides a
 3 matching amount equal to one-third of the grant.  Prior to
 4 applying, the agency shall conduct at least one public hearing on
 5 the project in the county where the project is being proposed.
 6 The information collected at the public hearing shall be
 7 submitted as part of the application to the commission.
 8      (d)  All projects must comply with all applicable safety and
 9 reliability rules and standards of the utilities that will
10 operate and maintain the underground lines.
11      (e)  This section shall not preclude any other state or
12 county rules with regards to installing utility lines
13 underground."
14      SECTION 3.  There is appropriated out of the general
15 revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $          , or so
16 much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2000-2001, to
17 the public utilities commission for the purpose of administering
18 the underground utility lines fund established in section 2 of
19 this Act.
20      The sum appropriated shall be expended by the department of
21 budget and finance for the purposes of this Act.
22      SECTION 4.  This Act shall take effect upon approval;
23 provided that section 3 shall take effect on July 1, 2000.
25                              INTRODUCED BY:______________________

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