THE CONTADINA CONSPIRACY: This week is commonly known as "are you insane?" week. Okay no it's not... we made that up. So sue us.
But it's a different March Madness that is driving us batty, not the one that has been- and will be- absorbing all of our time and keeping the care and feeding of this beast to a minimum.
It's "Crossover" week at the state legislature when, every year, there are a number of Frankensteinian, "what could you possibly be thinking" bills that have actually passed either the house or senate and are "still alive"... and about to be considered by the power-drunk, disconnected-from-reality officials on the other side (certainly not "our" side) of the lege.
But this year the sheer number if not the content of a passel of piss-poor provisions- ones seemingly designed to eliminate all environmental and land use protections in the name of "economic development"- can only be the product of a group of truly warped, if not criminally corrupted, minds.
We were going nuts over which was more important- this week's conference tournaments or compiling a list of these bills and giving a brief explanation of each... maybe even come up with an algorithm of the precise angle and number of times we should bang our head against the wall.
It was looking like the latter was losing out to that soothing sound of sneakers screeching on gym floors.
But wouldn't you know darn it- you're in luck.
Eleven term State Representative Cynthia Thielen- a Republican of all things and the ranking member of the House Energy and Environmental Protection, Water, Land and Ocean Resources and Judiciary Committees- has penned a handy-dandy guide to what she calls the "Dirty 8 (that) Erode Three Decades Of Landmark Environmental Law," as published in yesterday's "Civil Beat."
In her tome she lists the bills that have "crossed over," describing each and prefaced by the history of how the Hawai`i Environmental Protect Act (HRS § 343) and Shoreline Management Area legislation (HRS § 205A) came to be law.
She writes that :
our State Legislature is ignoring what this body established over three decades ago by now passing legislation that exempts government projects from this public environmental review process. This includes exemptions for government departments and agencies with long track records of being in violation of this landmark law, such as the Department of Transportation (think back to the lawsuit against DOT's H-3). This is a sad day for our public, and it brings shame to our Legislature.
Uh, we might have mentioned the SuperFerry instead but why quibble.
Thielen goes into greater detail and for how diabolical these eight pieces of crap really are and we urge you to read it in full... if you really want to get infuriated that is.
But, somewhat truncated, here they are:
1) HB530 is perhaps the worst of the Dirty 8 as it gives the Office of Planning the ability to grant or deny Special Management Area permits and shoreline setback variances for State structures and activities in shoreline areas. HB530 essentially exempts DOT and the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) from the Coastal Zone Management Act. More specifically, HB530 has the potential to exempt an undersea cable from environmental review.
2) HB2145 is simply titled "Relating to Economic Development" yet it states it is the policy of the State to complete certain key projects by December 31, 2023, such as the undersea, interisland cable and fixed rail.
3) HB2154 endangers Hawaii's shorelines by adding a temporary exemption from the Special Management Area Use and Minor Permit requirements for certain airport development.
4) HB2324 exempts the upgrading and new construction of broadband facilities on State and County property from State and County permitting processes.
5) HB2325 requires the State and Counties to approve, approve with modification, or disapprove all broadband related permits within 45 days. If no action is taken, the application will be approved on the 46th day. This bill allows for automatic approval of projects without first considering their impact.
6) HB2611 (and its Senate companion SB2873) temporarily amends Chapter 343, HRS, to clarify current EIS exemptions for certain secondary actions. The Department of Transportation sought the exemptions instead of seeking the Environmental Council's approval for secondary action exemptions on highway projects.
7) HB2613 exempts the Department of Transportation, Harbors Division from the permit and site plan approval requirements relating to submerged lands within the State land use conservation district, which contains important natural resources essential to the preservation of the State's fragile natural ecosystems and sustainability of the State's water supply.
8) HB2690 streamlines the geothermal development process by exempting all exploration and drilling from any environmental review, allowing such activity in all State land use districts and conservation district zones and repealing geothermal resource subzone provisions under State land use law.
She concludes by saying
As the Dirty 8 bills move swiftly through the Legislature, we are in danger of rewriting our legacy of environmental law by exempting projects from the specific environmental review processes which protect our vital natural and cultural resources and ensure our economic stability. These bills ignore decades of law introduced by Hawaii's esteemed leaders and environmental pioneers, and threaten the integrity of Hawaii's environment and the prosperity of its people. Instead of tearing down environmental protections and reversing laudable statutes, we should be heeding the wisdom of our predecessors and ensuring a viable future for generations.
If you want to help kill the beast where it lives, tracking bills is easier than ever. Have you pitchfork and torch at hand and go to the Capitol web site Once there enter the house bill (HB) number at the top on the left where it says "Bill Status/Measure Status." That will let you know what the number of the senate version (SB) is- once it is given one.
Then, when it says (at the bottom of the status page) that a hearing has been scheduled you can click on the "Submit Testimony" button which takes you to a page where you can do just that.
If you can't wait you can email all the senators at firstname.lastname@example.org or all representatives at email@example.com . Although tracking the bill and submitting testimony when it is scheduled is said to be more effective it's incredibly difficult and time consuming especially when you're opposing things like eight lousy tomatoes shoved up our little bitty cans- and especially since hearings only have 48 hour notices, even less if they don't feel like it.
Be back Monday.