Electric utility officials to testify at upcoming House hearing on Maui wildfires

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., listens to remarks during a press conference on Capitol Hill in 2017. She will head a House hearing into the recent Maui wildfires. File Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI

Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Two Republican House leaders announced on Thursday they will hold a Sept. 28 hearing on Capitol Hill to address last month's deadly Maui wildfires.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chair Morgan Griffith, R-Va., said the hearing will be held to get a better understanding on how the fires started and what else could have been done in response.

Those participating in the hearing will be Shelee Kimura, president & CEO of Hawaiian Electric; Leodoloff R. Asuncion Jr., chairman of Hawaii Public Utilities Commission; and Mark B. Glick, chief energy officer, Hawai'i State Energy Office.

The devastating fire on the Hawaiian island of Maui destroyed the historic town of Lahaina and leveled entire communities.

"Reported evidence of a downed power line sparking dry grass in Lahaina indicates that Hawaiian Electric equipment may have contributed to the fires," a statement from the committee said. "Information is also coming to light about actions taken -- or not taken -- by Hawaiian Electric to harden and modernize the electric grid of Maui in response to the growing risk of wildfires in recent years. "

The fire killed more than 130 people and helped put a strain on the country's disaster relief funds. Earlier this month, President Joe Biden asked Congress for $16 billion in additional emergency relief funds, $4 billion more than he requested from Congress three weeks ago

The Biden administration's funding request said Hurricane Idalia and other natural disasters such as the Maui wildfire have created the need for more money.