Clarify law on need for environmental review
The state Supreme Court's ruling in the Superferry case is causing concern about its effect on other projects.
THE state Supreme Court's ruling in the Superferry case is prompting the state to reconsider other decisions
to embark on projects without conducting environmental assessments. While exemptions from such assessments are allowed by legislation, a better approach would be to clarify the law to removed doubts about when assessments are necessary.
The high court ruled that state transportation officials wrongly exempted the Superferry from assessing environmental effects before it began operation. Since then, state Deputy Attorney General Myra Kaichi has advised the Molokai Ranch that it withdraw from a state irrigation system on Molokai "as quickly as possible" because no environmental assessment has been done for renewal of its lease, which expired in April 2006.
Molokai Ranch uses the state-run irrigation system to provide more than a million gallons of water daily for the industrial park at Palauea, the golf resort at Kaluakoi and Maunaloa Town. A group of Hawaiian homesteaders have argued that an environmental study should have been conducted before approval of the a new agreement, which is proposed to extend to 2011.
First Deputy Attorney General Lisa Ginoza told the Star-Bulletin's Gary T. Kubota that the high court's decision was of "great concern" because it "creates quite a bit of uncertainty. We do see some real challenges."
The 1998 Legislature exempted the state's purchase of the Waiahole Ditch from Amfac JMB/Hawaii from the environmental assessment requirement. That precedent should not lead to a string to exemptions, but neither should the Supreme Court's interpretation of the law be used to further Hawaii's reputation as hostile to business.
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