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From Alana:

As a result of many letters being sent to state representatives, Rep. Mazie Hirono has decided to co-sponsor the “Offshore Aquaculture is not Fishing Act of 2009”. The bill asserts that under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Secretary of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and regional fishery management councils do not have the authority to permit or regulate the commercial ocean fish farming industry, because it is not fishing. 

The federal law that gives the Gulf Council and NOAA authority to regulate fish and fishing region-by-region was not intended to govern risky industrial enterprises like ocean fish farms.

This is a step in the right direction for the regulation of offshore aquaculture, which might soon happen in the Gulf of Mexico, and expand in places like Hawaii.

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From:  Andrea

Just last month, Act 155 was passed in the Hawaii Legislature, amending Hawaii’s renewable energy law.

One of the highlights of this amendment was the strengthening of Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (often abbreviated as RPS).  These standards are binding for electric utility companies, which must satisfy the specified percentage of their net electricity sales with electricity generated from renewable energy sources by the specified date.

Now, Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standards are as follows:  10% by 2010; 15% by 2015; 25% by 2020; and 40% by 2030.  The two standards that Act 155 changed are the two later dates:  the 2020 standard was increased by 5%, and the 2030 standard was a new addition.

This strengthening of Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standards was a wise move by the Hawaii Legislature.  Hawaii should be a predominant leader in the renewable energy realm, considering that it is the most oil dependent state with over 90% of its energy needs met by imported fossil fuels– a doubly detrimental impact with carbon footprints from long-distance importation and burning.  The context of climate change and sea-level rise heighten Hawaii’s energy vulnerability.

Yet, Hawaii is also ideally situated to move the ball forward with renewable energy due to the high availability of solar, wind, wave, and tidal energy.  Thus, the Legislature’s addition of the long-term standard, 40% renewable-created electricity by 2030, is in line with Hawaii’s position of great need, vulnerability, and opportunism.

However, the short-term standard could be a bit more aggressive.  Although a five-percent increase to 25% by 2020 is an improvement, a few other states have more stringent short-term standards.  For example, California is requiring 20% renewable-created electricity by 2010– double Hawaii’s 2010 standard.  And, Maine has a 2017 standard of 40%, Hawaii’s standard for 13 years later, while New York has a 2013 standard of 24%– 9% greater than Hawaii’s 2015 standard.

Regardless of the precise standards, the definition of “renewable energy” sources must be amended.  While creating more stringent standards in the short-term is ideal, amending the definition of “renewable energy” to only encompass those sources that are truly clean is a must.

As it stands now, the definition of “renewable energy” does not contain any qualifications.  For example, it includes “biofuels.”  Such an unqualified authorization allows utility companies to meet the standard with, say, palm oil, which fits the broad definition of “biofuels.”

What’s the problem with palm oil qualifying as a renewable energy source?  This “biofuel” implicates a significant carbon footprint due to carbon-emitting land change.  After the deforestation, heavy fertilization, and peatland burning required to produce the palm oil, the production of this “biofuel” actually contributes more to global warming, opposed to ameliorating the crisis.

Renewable energy sources and, thus, renewable portfolio standards for utility companies should authorize only clean renewable sources in life-cycle terms.  Renewability should be just one requisite for clean energy sources; the holistic footprint, including emissions, land change, and other environmental impacts, also must be taken into account.

Otherwise, we may simply displace the impact to another medium.  Without amending the law to reflect this crucial qualification, the renewable portfolio standards may end up perpetuating the very problem that they are intended to improve.

Want Hawaii to lead a meaningful renewable energy transition?

Contact your representatives in the State Legislature and voice your opinion!

Here’s contact information for our House representatives:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/site1/house/members/members.asp

And, here’s contact information for Senate members:

http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/site1/senate/members/members.asp

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From:  Andrea

Most people are familiar with our inalienable natural rights, as John Locke summed up as life, liberty, and property.  But what about nature’s right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve?

These are the inalienable legal rights that the town of Shapleigh, Maine, voted to grant to nature last February.  Now, in the town of Shapleigh, population 2,326, natural communities and ecosystems are endowed with these inalienable, fundamental rights, and any town resident has “standing” to bring a lawsuit on behalf of natural communities and ecoystems.

Read the Boston Globe article here:

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/07/19/should_nature_be_able_to_take_you_to_court/?page=1

Shapleigh is on the right track.  While critics may argue there are too many potential litigants, ranging from the Kukui tree to the Waimea River, there exists an entire planet of species and ecosystems deserving of the right to exist.  And, sadly, counts of these potential litigants are diminishing.  See:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N01296862.htm

The above article, published July 2, reports that more than 800 animal and plant species have gone extinct in the last five-hundred years, with almost 17,000 threatened with extinction now, according to a recent International Union for Conservation of Nature report.  The track record shows that we are failing at conservation.  Endowing nature with the right to exist may bolster our efforts at conserving biodiversity.

Apparent in many facets of our social structure, we have consistently valued profit above nature.  After all, corporations have long had the legal status of a “person” and the corresponding rights, including ability to sue.  If corporations are “persons” in the sense of legal status and rights, then what is the problem with nature possessing rights to exist?  Nature is fundamental to our own existence, quite unlike corporations.

We are behind the time in recognizing nature’s rights.  Notwithstanding the dire situation of lost biodiversity, concepts of an ethical relationship with nature have been around for at least 100 years.  Aldo Leopold, an early environmentalist, wrote about his “land ethic” in A Sand County Almanac.  Based on the idea that ethics should be expanded to encompass nonhuman members of the biotic community, Leopold summed up his land ethic as follows:  “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.  It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  If we humans were on board with this profoundly simple land ethic- and had been during our last couple hundred years of pillaging-, then perhaps we would not be in the situation of having to pass town ordinances to grant nature the right to exist.

But, alas, so is human nature.  Our attempts at control have led us to a precarious precipice:  here, at the edge of continuing to diminish biodiversity, we have a choice.  The town of Shapleigh recognized this watershed moment and stepped in the direction of preservation.

If my town votes for a similar ordinance, you bet I’ll holler aye.  And, when critics question, “how do we know what nature wants?” and argue that the interest is actually ours, I’ll have my response.

Sure, we humans may be the ones instituting this groundbreaking regime of granting legal rights to biota.  But in reality, the idea of humans bringing these suits on behalf of nature is not so far-fetched.  After all, people serve as trustees to bring suits on behalf of incompetent people and trust beneficiaries.  Human implementation of nature’s rights is requisite:  the law is our system, and our impacts and attempts to control ecosystems thus far have led to the gross loss in biodiversity.

Humans- but not corporations- are a part of the planetary ecosystem.  We are not the operators behind an enormous control panel, like we have long been masquerading.  As a single species, we should make room in our legal and socioeconomic structures for the other species to survive, lest we deprive them all of their right to exist.

We should be celebrating and wholeheartedly codifying nature’s right to exist, flourish, and naturally evolve.  Without nature, without Earth, homo sapiens would not exist.

Ho’okahi No Ka ‘Aina A Me Na Kanaka.

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From:  Andrea

Sparked by curiosity about the legal procedure for chemical spills and releases, I have been researching the Hawaii Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act.  After days picking apart the details of this Act and  related regulations, I am left to wonder where I may find the “Community-Right-to-Know” aspect.

It seems like it should be called Department of Health-Right-to-Know.  Nowhere in this Act is there a mandate for notifying the public when there is a chemical release or spill.  Facilities that store hazardous and extremely hazardous substances over a threshold amount are bound to report their chemical inventory and releases or spills to the Department.   But, what about notifying the public of this danger?

As discovered by a call to the Hawaii Office of Hazard Evaluation and Emergency Response, the Department of Health is not bound to notify the public.  The Department decides, within its discretion, whether to notify the public through a general statement about a chemical release in the community.

When I started researching this law, I expected to find public notification requirements about what hazardous substances are present in the community and when they are accidentally released.  The only public right-to-know is the ability to request records on particular facilities from the Department of Health.  But, this policy does not truly inform the community because members of the public must know exactly what they are looking for in order to request that information.

If the apparent goal of the Act is the community’s right-to-know about the presence and release of hazardous substances within the community, there should be a provision binding the Department of Health to notify the public.  In other words, the Department should make records on these hazardous substances more accessible to the public, actually informing the community in a meaningful way.

As it stands now, the Hawaii Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act requires notifying the Department, but there is an essential step missing in the process:  notifying the public, rather than requiring the public to specifically request information that is not generally public knowledge.  The onus should be on the Department, the information-bearing party, not the public.

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From:  Andrea

Kahana residents have not ceased their tireless fight to stay in their homes.  Since their homeland was condemned as a state park in the ’60s, the people of Kahana have had to battle the State of Hawaii to stay in their homes.

And, now, after the State found illegal the law passed in ’93 to allow long-term leases for pre-existing residents in Kahana State Park, legislation has been proposed to ameliorate this unsettling situation for now.

House Bill 1552 presented Kahana residents an interim solution from being forced to leave their homes.  Public process gave them a way to voice their interests within the decision-making arena.  Reflecting Kahana residents’ input, the bill would help Kahana residents in the following ways:

  • Authorize Department of Land and Natural Resources to issue long-term residential leases to Kahana residents;
  • Establish planning councils to develop a park Master Plan; and
  • Establish a 2-year moritorium on evictions of Kahana valley residents.

But, now, Governor Lingle has voiced her intent to veto the bill, apparently under the guise of prohibiting illegal activities in Kahana.  If that’s the case, go after the illegal activities as the government would do so anywhere else!  The State should not perpetuate the suffering of long-time Kahana residents who are not participating in illegal activities because some residents are breaking the law there.

Want to support Kahana residents in their fight to protect their homes?

Oppose Governor Lingle’s intent to veto HB 1522:

Wednesday, July 8, 11 a.m.

Demonstration at the State Capitol

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From Alana:

Following last night’s passionate hearing regarding the proposed Mauna Kea Thirty-meter telescope, a letter to the editor to was sent to The Star Bulletin strongly opposing the telescope. The letter details the long history of cheating and cutting corners, in terms of environmental and cultural laws, that Mauna Kea developers have had.

Testifiers at last week’s Hilo EIS meeting revealed that the EIS presented a lesser number of telescopes in the science reserve than in previous documents — by changing how they’re counted. Did this new counting strategy intend to leave the impression the TMT would fit within the “11 major telescope” limit mandated in the 1985 management plan approved by Board of Land and Natural Resources? The land board established that limit specifically to prevent astronomy interests from “taking over” the mountaintop. One person at the Hilo meeting counted, in front of everyone, 21 domes or antennas already on the mountain.

UH claims to have changed, and that its building practices will be better, but there is nothing in their plan that can attest to that claim– especially in a plan that blatantly lies about the number of telescopes on Mauna Kea. 

For the whole letter, written by Catherine Robbins (Volcano, HI) click here. 

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From Marti:

This is just a quick run down on the status of some of the local legislation we are watching this session.  Tomorrow is second lateral – the day when surviving bills have to be delivered to their final committee.  The next major deadline is April 9th.

GOOD BILLS

SB 1088 – Seeks to improve enforcement of beach access for the public.  It successfully passed the House Water, Land, and Ocean Committee on Monday (Mahalo to Rep. Ito (D-Kaneohe) and Rep. Har (D-Kapolei)).  It is now on it’s way to the House Judiciary Committee (Rep. Karamatsu, D-Waipahu).  It needs a hearing by the first week of April.  Click here to demonstrate your support this important bill.

HB 1663/SB 709 – Both bills to protect taro from genetic modification are moving along nicely since cross over.  Tho, we are cautious to ensure that they are not amended to contradict the interests of taro farmers and consumers.  Click here to submit testimony in support of meaningful protections for our beloved Haloa. And, you can click here to read about the poundin’ good time had by all at the Taro Festival this year.

HRC 231 – This House Concurrent Resolution to uphold and enforce the laws that protect Mauna Kea was recently introduced by Rep. Hanohano (D-Puna).  This resolution outlines all that the State Land Board needs to do to fulfill its constitutional and statutory mandates to protect the conservation district of Mauna Kea.  Click here to add your support for this awesome reso.

BAD BILLS

HB 1174 – This bill seeks to give UH (the developer) management control over the conservation district of Mauna Kea. The Senate Committees on Higher Education and Water, Land passed this bill in a joint hearing, despite considerable solid testimony in opposition and only conditional testimony in support.  This bill now must be heard by the Ways and Means Committee.  Click here to take action and defend Mauna Kea.

HB 1741 – The bill to raid the Natural Area Reserve Fund has finally died!! Though we are concerned that this important fund to prevent invasive species could be raided through the budget bill.  So, stay close to hear the call to action on that front.

HB 1226 – Not only has the preemption bill died at the Capitol, it has also raised the ire of the counties who don’t appreciate some state representatives offering to just give away county authority to regulate GMO-agriculture.  Click here to read about the resolution Maui passed 9-0 against the preemption bill.

SB 1318 – This bill flipped to the good side.  The House Water, Land, and Ocean Committee deleted all the language about abolishing our coastal zone management protections and replaced with it with good language from Rep. Thielen’s pilot proposal to protect shorelines in Kailua from sea level rise with greater setbacks.

SB 1712 – The Right to Fish Bill is back in a slight muted form this session.  Unfortunately, this bill is starting to gain momentum. Stay tuned for updates on how to take action against efforts to undermine management of our fisheries and coastal areas.

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