RECAP: Energy and Commerce Committee’s Investigation of Maui Fires

Sep 28, 2023

Today’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing continued the Committee’s work to uncover how the Maui fires began and what may have worsened the emergency. 

Pictured from left to right: Shelee Kimura, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hawaiian Electric, Mark B. Glick, Chief Energy Officer, Hawai’i State Energy Office, and Leodoloff R. Asuncion, Jr., Chairman, Hawaii Public Utilities Commission

As Subcommittee Chair Morgan Griffith (R-VA) said, “One thing is certain, this series of fires were catastrophic to the state of Hawaii, and we must make every effort to be vigilant and try and prevent a similar disaster from striking again.”

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Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) added, “While it is difficult to revisit the disaster that occurred on Maui, we must examine any factors that could have caused or worsened the emergency, identify any unnecessary hazards that were allowed to persist, and pinpoint any additional precautions that could have been taken.”

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In the news:

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“Committee members questioned [President & CEO of Hawaiian Electric Shelee] Kimura on the company's protocols for shutting off power lines in response to extreme weather conditions. Kimura said they were ‘very aware of the red flag warning,’ which is a warning from the National Weather Service that indicates warm temperatures, very low humidities, and stronger winds may combine to produce an increased risk of fire danger. 

“She said that preemptive power shutdowns are not part of their wildfire mitigation plans, but that the company is reexamining their protocols.” 


“Chief Energy Officer of the Hawai'i State Energy Office Mark B. Glick was questioned on changes to the policy to reduce vegetation that could cause a fire, as the ability of the electric company to clear brush and vegetation is limited.” 

“According to the House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders, evidence of a downed power line sparking dry brush on the island indicated that Hawaiian Electric equipment may have contributed to the fires. The committee also questioned what actions Hawaiian Electric took in hardening and modernizing the Maui electric grid amid growing wildfire threats.” 

CLICK HERE to read more from ABC News.

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“Tense exchanges were made as lawmakers grilled Kimura over HECO’s decision to not de-energize powerlines in West Maui if they knew that some parts of the states were experiencing wind speeds higher than expected.” 


“Prior to the hearing, lawmakers sent a list of 10 questions to HECO, asking the company to explain its actions before, during and after the Aug. 8 fires. 

“’We must come to a complete understanding of how this disaster started to ensure Hawaii and other states are prepared to prevent and stop other deadly wildfires,’ they wrote, in a letter to the officials.” 

CLICK HERE to read more from Hawaii News Now.

ICYMI: In August, Energy and Commerce Republican Leaders sent a letter to Hawaiian Electric seeking information regarding the role of electric infrastructure in the fires that broke out. Letters were also sent to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission and the Hawai’i State Energy Office.