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Editorials
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Wednesday, May 8, 2002



[ OUR OPINION ]

Hawaii’s environment
makes some gains


THE ISSUE

Advocates attain victories both hard fought and inadvertent.


ENVIRONMENTAL measures seldom get the attention they deserve in a state where a vulnerable ecology assures that almost every piece of legislation will have some effect. However, advocates for the environment had cause to celebrate the legislative session this year because of the remarkable passage of the so-called bottle bill and, through inadvertent circumstances, a mandate to reduce energy use in state facilities.

While the driving public revved up for passage of the bill that caps the price of gasoline in Hawaii, supporters of energy conservation and renewable energy went along for the ride. The bill that was amended for use as a vehicle for the price cap began as a measure that requires the state to cut energy use in its buildings 20 percent by 2007 and 30 percent by 2012. Further, the measure directs that renewable energy sources be used for much of the remaining energy demands. Whether this bill would have passed in its original form is debatable, but environmentalists will take the win any way.

The hard-fought bottle bill, which places a 5-cent deposit on beverage containers, is aimed at recycling some of the 800 million glass, plastic and metal containers used in Hawaii every year and at reducing the litter that mars Hawaii's landscape for residents and tourists. In deference to the beverage industry, however, lawmakers deferred implementation for three years and more than likely the industry will continue to attack the law in subsequent sessions.

Another victory for environmentalists was the dedication of $1 million of the Hawaii Tourism Authority's budget for maintenance of state parks and trails. Although the amount is dwarfed by the HTA's $63 million allocation, it properly places some of the responsibility for care of Hawaii's natural resources with the industry that reaps great benefits from them. Visitors comprise the majority of users at state parks -- about 85 percent at such attractions as Diamond Head and Kalalau trail on Kauai's north shore.

Attempts to weaken the limited protection given to Hawaii's endangered species were turned back as lawmakers sensibly rejected a proposal to broadened an exemption for habitat protection on private lands to include all public property.

The environment also got more helping hands in fighting invasive species, with the Legislature allotting $1 million to continue the state's emergency eradication program. The successful program's dual purpose was to provide jobs for some of the thousands unemployed after Sept. 11 and to get rid of plants and other species that threaten the environment and the health of residents. It worked on both fronts.



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Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
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