The 2012 Legislative Session was characterized by an unprecedented and mostly unsuccessful effort to pass legislation exempting a wide variety of public and private actions from the environmental review required by Chapter 343HRS (EA & EIS Law). Proposed bills ranged from efforts to exempt the construction and development related to telecommunications, geo thermal exploration, the reconstruction of bridges, and also included measures intended to exempt various harbors, airports and highway improvements. While the OEQC supports the intent of eliminating unnecessary and duplicative processes, it does not support the weakening of environmental review and public input requirements provided for under Chapter 343.
The OEQC believes that the strong push to expand statutory exemptions to Chapter 343 stems, in part, from a lack of understanding as to how the exemption process currently works. In addition, it is clear that too many decision makers see the environmental review process and the accompanying public involvement as an impediment to development, rather than a useful and valuable tool that enhances environmental protection and ensures public support.
As a result of the lessons learned during this legislative session, the OEQC is committed to further increasing its education and outreach efforts, as well as to accelerate its plan to introduce true streamlining measures in future legislative sessions similar to SB2281 which passed with flying colors through this legislature and facilitates a “direct to EIS” process, saving agencies and private applicants potentially tens of thousands of dollars and 3 to 6 months of processing time.
If your government agency, private business or community organization would like to learn more about how the environmental review and exemption process really works, the OEQC would be pleased to schedule a workshop designed specifically to address your questions, needs or concerns. Contact OEQC via email at OEQC@doh.hawaii.gov or telephone at 586-4185.