Environmental Council defers further work


POSTED: Monday, September 28, 2009

The state's Environmental Council has suspended all further meetings until the state provides it with a staffer to take minutes and resources for Neighbor Island members to participate.

Council Chairwoman Gail Grabowsky, a Chaminade University professor, wrote the state Department of Health last month saying the council wouldn't reconvene until “;the conditions to conduct a successful council meeting have been met.”;

The decision comes four months after the previous chairman, Pacific Biodiesel President Robert A. King, quit, saying a lack of state support was preventing the council from accomplishing what it was required to do under state law.

Two other council members resigned shortly after King, also in protest.

The council, which has 15 volunteer, unpaid members appointed by the governor, helps the state make sure its rules governing environmental impact statements are in line with state law. It also reviews criteria under which environmental studies don't need to be done and discusses exemptions with state departments.

The normally low-profile council briefly stepped into the spotlight in 2007, when it passed a resolution saying the state should conduct an environmental impact statement for the Superferry. Six months after the council's Superferry recommendation, the state Supreme Court arrived at a similar conclusion.

Grabowsky's Aug. 17 letter to Laurence Lau, the Department of Health's deputy director, said no staffer has been available to take meeting minutes for months at a time. So far this year, minutes for just two meetings—one in January and another in April—are posted online.

Lau said he's looking into the council's requests.