WAILUKU, Hawaii — The Maui County Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday that asks the secretary of homeland security to waive provisions of the Jones Act in an effort to lower the cost of transporting foreign oil to the state.
“While we’re suffering the effects of an international crisis, it’s time to set aside this federal law that requires the transport of goods exclusively on a limited number of domestic vessels, resulting in higher costs for Hawaii consumers, said Council member Michael Molina, who introduced the measure. “We need to have the U.S. government level the playing field in the form of reduced fuel and shipping costs for Maui County and other state residents.”
Passed into law in 1920, the Jones Act is a federal law that requires all shipping between U.S. ports to be transported on ships that are built, owned, and operated by U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States. The act has been frequently cited as a factor in the high cost of imported goods, and numerous attempts have been made over the years to repeal it.
Resolution 22-90 states that exempting Hawaii from Jones Act requirements “could help stabilize costs for fuel, building materials, affordable housing, delivery costs for small business, household items like batteries, canned food, and toiletries, and other goods and services.”
It also affirms the council’s support of U.S. sanctions against Russia, including the ban on imported oil, in response to ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.
Last month, U.S. Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, called on Pres. Joe Biden to waive the Jones Act for Hawaii. He also introduced H.R. 6974 to mandate such a waiver. The bill was assigned to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on March 8 but has not been scheduled for a hearing.
Michael Tsai covers local and state politics for Spectrum News Hawaii.