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Decision leaves state vulnerable to Superferry lawsuits, Hanabusa says


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POSTED: Tuesday, March 17, 2009

State Senate leaders who worked on the Superferry law says the Hawaii Supreme Court decision today declaring the law unconstitutional may leave the state open to new lawsuits.

When Act 2 was passed, the Legislature insisted that the company agree to drop all claims for damages against the state and to hold the state blameless. The clause essentially meant that the Superferry could not sue the state.

Act 2 allowed the interisland ferry to operate before an environmental impact statement on the operation was completed.

Senate President Colleen Hanabusa said that with the court striking down the law, it presumably also opens up lawsuits from the ferry company. “The provision that the HSF can’t sue the state is also out,” she said today.

Another question is if the company wants to go through the effort of applying for a new environmental impact statement.

Hanabusa said the EIS requirements that the state and the Superferry were following in regard to the EIS are different from existing state environmental law. So to sail again, the Hawaii Superferry would have to restart a new EIS process.

Sen. J. Kalani English, the Senate transportation committee chairman who voted against Act 2, said the mistake still rests with the Hawaii Superferry.

“If they just followed the law in the beginning, things would have been much simpler. I voted against it because I didn’t believe the law was constitutional,” he said.