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Posts Tagged ‘ocean’

On the morning of Thursday, February 4th, the State Land Use Commission hearing was a packed house–wall to wall green shirts as over 60 people literally “stood up” for protecting some of O’ahu’s last wild shoreline.

After 23 years of inaction by developers, Defend Oahu Coalition filed a motion with the State Land Use Commission asking why 236 acres of the property should continue to be classified as an urban district. Today, developers want to use this decades-old agreement, forcing their massive new development on the rural Koolauloa/North Shore community–one that is wrong for this rural area and wrong for our time.

In spite of a day packed with passionate testimony, the overwhelming failure by numerous developers to meet their promises, the LUC again failed to reach a decision. Sigh.  See portions of the day’s events by clicking here

From our friends at Defend Oahu Coalition:

Defend Oahu Coalition would like to express our sincere appreciation for all who came to the Land Use Commission hearing yesterday in the strongest showing of support we have seen yet for Keeping the Country COUNTRY. As you may have already heard, despite a room full of green shirts, passionate testimony throughout the day, the overwhelming evidence of failure by numerous developers at Turtle Bay Resort to keep their promises, and a clear mandate to rule under State Land Use Law, the LUC failed to reach a decision. After nearly two years and six separate hearings, the commissioners once again decided to call it quits and kick the can down the road.

In 1986, the resort company asked that this agricultural land be reclassified as “urban/resort” in exchange for jobs, affordable housing, and parks to benefit the community. The project never materialized, and neither did these benefits. The developers never acted, and their agreement with the State seemingly expired. Over twenty years passed, with different owners, different management and different developers promising jobs, parks, and affordable housing. All while undeveloped open spaces continued to dwindle, and traffic problems escalated.

Today, despite overwhelming public protest, Kuilima Resort Company Kuilima Resort Company (KRC) and its parent company Los Angeles- based Oaktree Capital Management is pressing forward to expand their Turtle Bay Resort with five new hotels and 1,000 luxury condos on Oahuʻs rural North Shore.

Returning the land to its original “agriculture” classification would allow the Turtle Bay Resort to continue operations, but would send a strong message to speculators and overseas developers that they must keep promises that they make to the people of Hawaii. The Turtle Bay Resort has recently been marketed as a rural get-away and is today doing better business than most Waikiki hotels. The LUC should return these acres and protect them as rural agricultural lands. You can find information about upcoming meetings and hearings at Defend Oahu’s website.

Twenty-three years is more than enough time! You can support the Defend Oahu Coalition motion with just one click!

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From Miwa:

“We are the Kānaka. We are the Hawaiians. We are the ones who, if you screw it up, have nowhere else to go. Whose mana, whose ancestors, whose everything, will be lost.” – Testimony from one uncle from Oʻahu to the Ocean Policy Task Force members.

So, I only made it to the last hour or so of the Ocean Policy Task Force Honolulu “listening” session yesterday, but here are a few of my observations from the time I was there (The amazing Marti and our board member Kealoha Pisciotta were there throughout the afternoon):

Despite the tsunami warning in the AM, it was still a pretty packed room with people from around the islands. (Brothers and sisters in Samoa, in our thoughts.) Thanks to all who heard the kāhea and came out!

In June, the President made a commitment to dramatically improve the health of the ocean. As per usual, however, the push towards a unified U.S. ocean policy may get hijacked by corporate interests seeking to exploit our oceans and may end up undermining local management efforts. Original plans by the Feds were to hold this session in San Francisco only, meaning a 3,000+ miles trek and thousands of dollars in travel costs for concerned Hawai’i (and other peoples of the Pacific) residents. We fought hard to have this “listening session” in Honolulu.

So first, let me say that it was great to actually see administration officials IN Hawai’i, face-to-face with people of the Pacific. In principle? Listening Session = Awesome. In practice? It was sort of more like a “we’ll-listen-to-the-guys-we-want-to-hear-from, and-then-the- rest-of-you-can-talk, at-least-until-we-have-to-leave-for-dinner” session.

There was  a hand-picked panel of “stakeholders” up first, ostensibly representing different “stakeholder groups.” Administration officials were about 6 feet above the audience, lined up at a table on a stage, listening. After the panel, the floor was opened up to “everyone else.” At six o’clock, administration officials called it quits. Approximately 35 people who had waited hours to testify, were sent away.

Ocean Policy Task Force

I argued against this kind of “listening” model a lot when I worked in government. The problem I have with this kind of “stakeholder representation” process–the problem I’ve always had with this kind of process–is that it allows a small group of government officials to arbitrarily elevate the voices of a favored few, while demoting the voices of others.

Officials and government staff and consultants favor this kind of model because it gives them a sense that they are being “fair”–through the stakeholder panel, different groups are “equally” represented (e.g., this guy represents business, this guy represents Hawaiians, this guy represents surfers, this guy represents conservation interests)–in an orderly fashion that doesn’t take up a ton of their time and minimizes their being yelled at.

These are all understandably human desires. Orderly = good. Being yelled at = bad.

The problem, is that this is a false sense of order. In reality (where all of us actually live), the world is messy, it is complex, it is imbued with people’s passions, guided by what they care about, filled with uncertain choices, and sometimes charged by their righteous outrage.

Being listened to by government on the fate and future of resources in the public trust should not be a privilege, but a sacred right.

Kealoha noted how much of the public testimony (outside the panel) really focused on the unique needs of Pacific Island nations, sovereignty, the need to acknowlege Hawaiian right-holders, and the imperative to respectfully seek and request indigenous knowledge and ways-of-knowing.

For Hawaiʻi, the stakes are incredibly high. In Hawai’i, we are a place of ocean. The future of Hawaiian waters is the future of Hawai’i. And, (I say this with all due respect) if you must be late to dinner, Dr. Lubchenko, because you are listening to what citizens in Hawai’i have travelled miles to say about their own future, I think maybe that should be okay.

But as a beginning, I left this “listening session” feeling… hopeful. This process will continue over the next year or so, and with more opportunities for Hawaiʻi communities to meaningfully speak to the future of our public trust Hawaiian waters. Please be on the lookout for the next kāhea to participate!

You can still submit written testimony to the Task Force online here.

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From Alana:

For the past few weeks there have been numerous articles, editorials, and letters to editors in several local newspapers regarding open ocean aquaculture. A recent editorial in the Honolulu Advertiser states that 

the large size and experimental nature of the [Hawaii Oceanic Tech] project demands that state regulators, and the public, keep a critical eye on the project as it moves forward.

The article goes on to say that the objective of this project is an organic, ecologically sustainable fish. 

PROBLEM #1: Organic. The problem with this is that there are no organic standards for fish farming. It would also be especially hard to develop one for open ocean aquaculture, because the cages are not closed systems. Anything that is in the water will wind up in the bodies of the fish.

Hawaii Oceanic Tech also hopes to use “organic feed” for their fish. The main ingredient in HOTIs feed will be “sardines from sustainable fish stocks”. But, this goes back to what I said above: there are no organic standards for fish, so any claims of their feed being so are false.

PROBLEM #2: Ecologically Sustainable. This is a tricky one, just because it is so undefined. What is ecologically sustainable? Everything humanity does will impact the environment in some way. Perhaps ecologically sustainable means there is a balance of pros and cons for the environment. But what are the pros in this situation? Proponents of aquaculture say that farming fish gives wild populations a chance to repopulate, but this is easily proven wrong by the environmental havoc  that fish farming has caused in British Columbia and other places where fish farms are popular. Many Canadians are embarrassed that their government has let the caged farming industry expand because of its serious impacts. 

More information about ocean fish farming’s impact on wild stocks can be found here: Science Daily: Ocean Fish Farming Harms Wild Fish, Study Says (Neil Frazer-UH)

Keep your eyes open for more aquaculture in the news in the coming weeks.

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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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HONOLULU ADVERTISER, ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS WIRE REPORT ON CONTROVERSY

by Stewart:

KAHEA’s complaint asking a Hawaii court to require the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to follow state law concerning permits for the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Monument has made news, as Hawaii’s largest newspaper and a national environmental wire service both published pieces on the matter today.

The news reports come two days after KAHEA filed its suit and a day after KAHEA presented its case to the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources.  KAHEA has requested the board refrain from issuing new permits until the agency complies with the law; KAHEA has requested an administrative hearing on the issue.

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From:  Andrea

Last night at the public hearing on the Draft Science Plan for Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, held at the monument office in Hawaii Kai, a troubling consequence of the lack of environmental review was elucidated.

One of the Science Plan authors stated that research activities that have already been permitted are assumed to have gone through a “rigorous” review by management.  The problem?

Actually, there could be quite a few from this muddy statement.  For one, this statement suggests that research activities that have already been permitted will not be scrutinized- nor, certainly, environmentally assessed- in the future.  It sounds like grandfathering-in existing and previous permits, meaning some activities that have been permitted in the past will be continuously assumed to pass muster, despite never actually being environmentally reviewed.

Clearly, grandfathering-in research activities so that they never undergo environmental review creates informational ravines that make cumulative impact analysis impossible.  Cumulative impacts, the incremental impacts of an action when added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future action, must be assessed.  The managers need to understand the big picture, especially when making seemingly small decisions like permitting.

Secondly, what is this “rigorous” review that the manager mentioned?  There has been no environmental assessment on any permits nor the entire permitting system nor the Science Plan, so it clearly was not environmental review.  If this rigorous review were undertaken via the prioritization system of the Science Plan, that, too, is problematic.

As I have blogged before, the Science Plan has two tragic flaws:  (1)  the prioritization scheme that doesn’t actually prioritize permit activities (To prioritize permit activities, it asks, pros and…pros?, leading to 97% of potential research activities to be ranked as “critical” or “high” in importance.) and (2)  the lack of environmental review.

But, the environmental assessment did not come with the Science Plan.  The managers argue that this is the draft plan, so environmental assessment is not appropriate now.  However, they also proclaim the plan to be an evolving document- not problematic necessarily.  The evolving nature of the plan is problematic, however, for lack of environmental review because, if it is meant to evolve, when would the managers consider environmental review appropriate? There could always be an argument that it is not truly finalized yet if it’s an “evolving” document.

On the other side, if the monument managers, in fact, conduct an environmental assessment for the Final Science Plan, which is the next step after last night’s public hearing, the decision on permitting prioritization will have been made.  And, environmental assessment is legally required to take place prior to decision-making.  The whole point of environmental review is for decision-makers to be informed of environmental impacts before they make final decisions.

So, either the Science Plan truly is an evolving document, in which case an environmental review is likely to be put off forever.  Or, the Science Plan will be finalized in the next step, the Final Science Plan, which frustrates the point of environmental review taking place before decisions are made.

Confusing?  Yes.  But it need not be.

KAHEA urges the monument managers to take the straightforward approach by conducting environmental review of the Science Plan, which guides the entire permitting process, prior to finalization of the plan.  KAHEA also urges environmental review of all permits- no grandfathering-in.  Each proposed permit should be looked at with a fresh eye, through the lens of cumulative impacts, which inherently change over time.

Let’s hope that public comments are indeed incorporated into the Final Science Plan, whenever that may be.  Otherwise, the one-sided prioritization system will continue to rank most activities high, leading to excessive access and impact in a fragile, irreplaceable ecosystem.

What can you do?  Speak up!

Last public hearing on the Science Plan  is in Hilo tomorrow:

Hawai‘i, July 23th, 6-8 p.m.
Mokupapapa Discovery Center,
308 Kamehameha Ave, Suite 203, Hilo, HI, 96720.

All written public comments must be received by the monument managers by or before August 10.

• U.S. Mail:
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Attn: Science Plan Comments, 6600 Kalaniana‘ole Hwy, Suite 300, Honolulu HI, 96825

• E-mail: nwhicomments@noaa.gov.

To read the plan:

http://papahanaumokuakea.gov/research/plans/draft_natressciplan.pdf

(It takes a few minutes to download, but once you’re there, skip to page 10 for the prioritization chart.)

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KAHEA Suit Asks Court to Enforce Law On Permits

Complaint Follows Whistleblower Suit By State Worker

“This is not the wild west; there are laws here.”

From Stewart:

The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are known around the globe as one of the world’s last intact, fully functional marine ecosystems.  They are home to highly endangered Hawaiian monk seals and the birthplace of more than ninety percent of threatened green sea turtles.  Thousands of people participated in the establishment of the islands as the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which led state and federal regulators to commit to a “do no harm” policy for all human activities allowed in the monument.  The monument is intended to be one of the most protected places on earth, with access strictly limited by the do-no-harm policy and applicable state and federal laws.

Despite these protections, the state of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Division of Aquatic Resources have ignored their legal obligations when permitting activities in the reserve.  The agencies have brushed aside KAHEA’s repeated objections to the agency’s practices.  And when a lawyer working as a policy specialist to the Division of Aquatic Resources dared point out that the division was failing to follow the law the law, the division responded by firing the lawyer.

KAHEA has decided enough is enough.

The organization today filed suit against the department and division; the complaint asks the court to require the state agencies to comply with the law.

“This is a place of enormous cultural significance of the Hawaiian people and is intended to be one of the world’s most protected places,” said Marti Townsend, program director and staff attorney for KAHEA. “It is unfortunate that the agencies have forced us to take legal action simply to get the agencies to follow the law, but they left us no choice.”

“This is not the wild west; there are laws here. Laws that are meant to protect our natural resources and the best interests of Hawaii’s people,” said Kumu Hula Vicky Holt-Takamine, KAHEA’s Board President. “DLNR must follow these laws.”

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