The state Office of Environmental Quality Control is not the only state agency to oppose a state House draft that would give the governor and county mayors the ability to exempt state and county construction projects from environmental review if the projects would have minimal impact on the environment.
The bill, meant to help boost the construction industry, would also relax the special management area review process for state projects.
The state Office of Hawaiian Affairs warned House lawmakers that the bill “could result in irreversible impacts or costly remediation measures in the future.”
The Office of Planning strongly opposed the bill, which would make the office temporarily responsible for processing all special management area permit applications for all state projects. In written testimony, Jesse Souki, the director of the Office of Planning, wrote that the bill would “set OP up for failure, risk federal funding, detract from the effectiveness of the (Coastal Zone Management) program to plan for and manage the sustainable use of Hawaii’s coastal resources, and raise the specter of liability for OP and the state.”
But the state Department of Transportation believes the bill will allow the department to implement projects in a more timely and efficient manner.
The Building Industry Association of Hawaii , the General Contractors Association of Hawaii, and the Land Use Research Foundation of Hawaii also supported the bill.
Environmental and conservation groups, which have led the opposition, asked lawmakers not to to weaken regulatory oversight of state construction.
“This bill is based on a misconception: that we can spur economic development by temporarily removing rules for construction of certain state and county projects,” Mary Steiner, the chairwoman of the state Environmental Council, said in written testimony. “The rules are needed to ensure wise planning and to protect the environment and our unique cultural heritage.”
The House Water, Land and Ocean Resources Committee and the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee delayed action on the bill until Thursday morning.