by Kirk Caldwell, State House Majority Leader
As the saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right. I support the Superferry, and like the majority of people in Hawaii, I think we need an alternative mode of transportation between islands. But, there is more to this issue than public polls and political spin, and I believe the legislature needs to go forward judiciously before setting a policy to essentially accommodate one project.
Simply put, the state incorrectly issued an exemption for the harbor work, putting the Superferry in a bad financial position, and further hurting Hawaii's reputation as an unfriendly place to do business. Now Governor Lingle is asking the State Legislature to call a special session regardless of the court ruling, but she refuses to share with the State Legislature or the public the specific written opinion by the Attorney General that determined no environmental assessment was required for the $40 million harbor renovation.
The Governor's refusal to give us the formal reasons why the State gave harbors an exemption from environmental law flies in the face of her asking the legislature to fix the situation legally. How can you appropriately remedy the situation when the State will not openly share the reasoning behind its own wrong action?
In addition, when the Supreme Court issued its order on August 23rd stating than an environmental assessment should have been conducted, Governor Lingle should have immediately pulled together all the parties in the case. Her purpose should have been to work out a framework to conduct an environmental review and allow temporary operation of ferry service. This would have been a difficult negotiation. But it could have provided the court, the legislature, the Superferry management and the state administration with a go-forward plan. If specific help were needed from the legislature, the Public Utilities Commission or other parties, it should have been delineated through the negotiation.
The Governor is now saying a special legislative session on the Superferry should be called regardless of tomorrow's ruling. If we are to effectively resolve the problem, we need the Governor and the state administration to work with the legislature and provide the information we need to ensure that good policy prevails.