April 3rd, 2012

The state House Finance Committee voted early Tuesday to advance a bill that would give the governor the authority to temporarily establish lists of state construction projects that would be exempt from environmental review.

But lawmakers added language to the bill — Senate Bill 755 — that suggests the governor consult with other public officials about the exemption lists. The provision was included in response to concerns from environmentalists and others that the governor may not be qualified to determine which state projects will have minimal or no significant environmental impact.

Lawmakers also chose not to reduce the time period for legal challenges or preclude private citizens and interest groups from filing lawsuits challenging a state decision to exempt a state project from environmental review.

State Rep. Sharon Har (D, Makakilo-Kapolei) said she believes critics have mistakenly described the bill as a blanket environmental exemption for state projects. She said many state projects would still be subject to other state regulations as well as potentially tougher federal requirements.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation that’s been espoused about this bill. People continue to say this is a blanket exemption. And it is, in fact, not if you read the bill,” she said.

The state Department of Transportation, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the state Office of Planning support the bill as a way to help streamline the state construction process and discourage duplicate state and federal regulatory review of projects. The governor would have the authority to create exemption lists through June 2015. The bill also exempts certain state projects from special management area permit and shoreline setback variance requirements.

But Gary Hooser, the director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control, said there is no need to give the governor expanded authority since an exemption process is already in place. He said it would set a bad precedent and create a separate set of rules for public and private projects.

“It is unnecessary as there is now in place an established procedure which already provides a straightforward, easy to implement exemption list process for actions or projects that are likely to have no or negligible environmental impacts,” he told the committee.

The bill now moves to the full House for a vote. The state Senate has not shown interest in the idea, although senators have separate proposals to streamline state permitting and procurement to speed state construction.

7 Responses to “Narrowed”

  1. galekaminari:

    This bill crystalizes in the Public’s mind, everything that is wrong with the legislature and the current Administration. You would think that the legislature, DOT, DLNR, Office of Planning, and Governor, might pay some attention to the administrator of the State agency which administers the current environmental scrutiny and exemptions law (OEQC). Thank you, Gary Hooser, for trying!

    People at the Capitol last night alleged that the Finance Chair was holding decision-making meetings in his office, and not in public. Is that true? Isn’t that a violation of State Sunshine laws? Was this bill among those decided on in private?

  2. Teddy Freddy:

    Interesting. LURF must have been scared of the public notification that had to go along with the time period reduction and convinced Har that it was better to not mess with the time element if that meant actually telling the public what was going on. mmm

  3. Atomic Monkey:

    So, what do you do with a governor with low approval ratings who everybody thinks is blowing it….give him more authority.

  4. teddy freddy:

    Of course the pre-decision making meetings were held in the privacy of the Finance Chair’s office. You could see the DOT and LURF and HAR and CHONG and other key players going in and out of Oshiro’s office during the evening and prior to the official announcement and decision making vote.

  5. Goober:

    Seems someone ate a rotten banana and should be going nuclear.

  6. ohiaforest3400:

    SB 755: the “Frankenbill” that authorizes a state tax holiday for peer-to-peer gaming supplies purchased at State projects without environmental review. Seriously, that describes the tortured path this bill has taken.

    Three Readings, my arse.

  7. Goober:

    Wide load present.

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