Today, Maui County announced its intent to file a lawsuit to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for their role in the climate crisis. For over fifty years, the fossil fuel industry knew that their products—oil, gas and coal—would cause detrimental impacts to the world’s climate. Instead of acting for the greater good, the industry doubled down on production and spent millions on alternative science and misinformation campaigns.
In response to Maui County’s announcement, the Sierra Club Maui Group has released this statement:
“Every day Maui Nui battles with the hardships of the climate crisis,” said Rob Weltman, Maui Group Executive Committee Chair. “This crisis was made worse by the fossil fuel industry’s well-funded deception campaign that delayed action on climate change and made them billions of dollars. At the same time, just three feet of sea level rise will cost Maui County alone $3.2 billion in loss of residential structures and land—in addition to creating conditions for more severe hurricanes, wildfires and droughts. This litigation empowers the County to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers while holding the industry accountable for its contribution to the climate crisis. It makes sense for Maui County to file suit now, to stand-up for its residents and hold the industry responsible for misleading the public and policymakers about the immense risk their products pose to people and the planet.”
Contact Marti Townsend, Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi Director for press inquiries.
COMMUNITY GROUPS CHALLENGE EIS
FOR PROPOSED KAHULUI SLUDGE FARM AND POWER PLANT
KAHULUI, MAUI – The Sierra Club Maui Group and Maui Tomorrow are challenging Maui County and Anaergia Services’ proposed sludge farm and power plant along the Kahului shoreline by filing a lawsuit in Maui’s Environmental Court today. The groups are represented by attorney Lance D. Collins.
The groups challenge the County Environmental Management Director’s approval of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for Anaergia’s proposed sludge processing, energy generation, and biocrop growing/burning project. Under the proposal, sludge from wastewater treatment facilities at Kīhei, Lahaina, and the Wailuku-Kahului Wastewater Reclamation Facility
(Kahului Wastewater Facility) would be trucked to a site at the Kahului Wastewater Facility and dried using methane gas byproducts of the anaerobic digestion of “biocrops” grown on 500 acres of former sugar cane lands, with additional energy from a propane burner. This process is also proposed to generate electricity for the Kahului Wastewater Facility.
The project was first proposed through a county procurement. Anaergia was the sole bidder in that process. Anaergia also currently holds a County waste-to energy landfill gas contract, which an independent auditor determined will cost the County $35 million more than anticipated when procured. The community groups challenge Anaergia’s preparation of the EIS, as opposed to the County, for reasons including the County’s unwritten policy of imposing less strict oversight over projects for which they have outside entities prepare an EIS.
The groups also challenged the failure to adequately consider sea level rise predictions. Maui Tomorrow Executive Director, Albert Perez commented, “Taxpayers should not be burdened with underwriting complicated science experiments that will only cost taxpayers more money and likely do nothing to protect the environment. Maui County needs to move forward, not backward, by getting the Kahului treatment facility out of the tsunami zone and away from sea level rise.”
The Kahului Wastewater Facility’s precarious location was specifically called out in the State’s Sea Level Rise Adaptation Report, published in December 2017. “Sierra Club is very much in favor of increasing the use of renewable energy, including in microgrids for specific purposes,” said Rob Weltman, president of Sierra Club Maui Group. “However, it must be done in a responsible way which does not result in new threats to our sensitive shoreline environment.”
The proposal will result in nearly 3,130 tons per year of dried sludge and nearly 30,000 tons per year of biocrop byproduct “digestate,” but the EIS does not indicate how the County will dispose of them.
Published as a Viewpoint Op-Ed in the Maui News on February 1, 2018
By Adriane Raff Corwin
It’s a matter of basic human decency to show respect toward each other’s ancestral remains. The Central Maui sand dunes are the resting place for thousands of iwi kupuna (ancestral bones), but landowner Maui Lani Partners has been allowed to illegally mine
hundred of thousands of tons of Central Maui sand and destroy countless burials in its Phase 9 site. Malama Kakanilua, a local group of cultural descendents and their supporters, is fighting to stop this desecration once and for all.
As a first step, County Council member Elle Cochran introduced legislation to establish a moratorium against all sand mining in Central Maui in spring 2017. It finally became law on Jan. 5 but included an exemption clause: Anyone with land in the moratorium area would be excused from it if they held a valid grading permit before the moratorium passed.
MLP’s Phase 9 permit was set to expire in late 2017, so it would not be able to get a new permit once the moratorium became law. But instead, in late November 2017, the Public Works Department quietly extended Maui Lani’s Phase 9 permit. The time stamp in the email exchange showed only 29 minutes passed between Public Works receiving MLP’s application for permit extension and the department’s approval of it. This made sure MLP’s Phase 9 site is exempt from the moratorium.
Public Works cannot claim that it was unaware of the controversy. In April 2017, Gina Mangieri of KHON2 did an expose on the scheme between development company MLP and cement company HC&D (formally Ameron) to mine thousands of tons of sand from MLP’s Phase 9 site, export it on barges and create cement for construction projects like Oahu’s rail. According to KHON2, MLP and HC&D’s joint owner, the Mills Group, made $30 million off Maui sand mining in 2016 alone. All of this was done with a simple grubbing and grading permit (No. G2014/0090); the Mills Group found loopholes in the law that allowed them to mine away the small amount of inland sand Maui has left.
Mayor Alan Arakawa called for a moratorium on sand mining but took no action, so Malama Kakanilua sent him a letter in May 2017 that explained why MLP’s Phase 9 permit should be revoked, including the fact that MLP provided incorrect information in its original application by checking “No” after the application question, “Are there known burials, cemeteries, or other historic sites on the property?” The land in question is a well-documented pre-contact burial ground, and this type of omission should warrant revocation and reevaluation.
David Goode, director of Public Works, signaled that he was aware of the controversy by writing a letter to the State Historic Preservation Division in July 2017, relating community testimony stating MLP did not have required archaeological monitors on hand during its work.
So, despite the fact that the original permit application included false information, new burials were found at the site, the council was working on a moratorium, Maui-Lana’i Burial Council was weighing a motion to preserve the burials in place, Malama Kakanilua filed a lawsuit against MLP, the judge issued a preliminary injunction in that suit to stop the mining, and the Planning Department sent a warning letter that MLP initially ignored, Public Works extended MLP’s Phase 9 permit in 29 minutes — without consulting any other pertinent agency or department.
Malama Kakanilua and Sierra Club Maui are calling on the county to revoke MLP’s permit extension as well as the grading permit granted to Waiko Industrials (also granted right before the moratorium for another highly sensitive burial area). We want a complete audit of the permitting process so that we: 1) get to the bottom of how the MLP permit was approved in the first place, and 2) ensure this blind approval process stops once and for all.
County government needs to make sure the mining stops. So far, Public Works has taken no action, so Cochran has introduced a new bill to remove the exemption clause from the moratorium law, which may be discussed at the Feb. 2 council meeting. We urge the public to stand up for decency and demand these burials be protected.
* Adriane Raff Corwin is the directing coordinator of Sierra Club of Hawai’i’s Maui Group.
Settlement Leads to Protection of Culturally and Environmentally Sensitive Land at Honua’ula
(Joint Press Release of Sierra Club, Maui Unite and Honua’ula Partners, LLC)
After more than three years of extensive negotiations, environmental and cultural groups, Sierra Club and Maui Unite, have entered into a settlement agreement with developer Honua’ula Partners, LLC and the County of Maui. The settlement calls for the protection of over 160 acres of land containing ancient Hawaiian villages, boundary markers and site complexes, as well as rare and endangered plants and animals. The settlement also includes protection of portions of the historic Kanaio-Kalama Road, specific access rights for cultural practitioners and the public, a reduction in the size of the originally proposed eighteen-hole golf course, a deer fence to protect endangered plants, and a conservation easement over the protected lands to be held by the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust. Another key feature of the agreement is a 116-foot wide buffer along the boundary with Maui Meadows, a one-acre public park located adjacent to the buffer, as well as height limits on certain structures in areas adjacent to the Maui Meadows buffer. Other parts of the agreement call for preserved areas to be turned over to a nonprofit group in the future.
The settlement agreement between the parties stems from a claim filed in 2012 that challenged the environmental impact statement that had been prepared by the developer and accepted by the county in conjunction with a proposed 1,400 unit development in Wailea on a 670-acre property near the south end of Pi’ilani Highway.
The project, which was initially referred to as “Wailea 670,” was approved by the Maui County Council in 2008 for single family and multi-family units, a range of commercial and other mixed uses, and a golf course. The County Council placed a number of conditions on the development, for the protection of culturally and environmentally sensitive areas – including a “native plant preservation area” of not less than 18 acres and not more than 130 acres.
Through their claim, Sierra Club and Maui Unite contended among other things that the developer’s environmental impact statement had failed to adequately address the extent of the cultural and archaeological sites and features located on the property. During the protracted settlement negotiations, the developer agreed to conduct further archaeological work. The archaeologists have confirmed that hundreds of significant archaeological sites or features are located on the property, including ceremonial sites, stepping stone trails, living quarters and farming terraces. Most of these sites are now confirmed for perpetual protection.
The claimants also contended in their lawsuit that the EIS failed to address the impacts associated with the 250 affordable housing units that were required to be constructed off-site, at the proposed Kaonoulu Light Industrial Subdivision located on the mauka side of Pi’ilani Highway in North Kihei, which has been the subject of another land use claim. As a result of the settlement, the claimants have agreed that the developer may seek to obtain approval from the County Council to amend the original Wailea 670 project district ordinance to permit the affordable housing to be located either at the Kaonoulu site or at the Honua’ula site, or a combination of both sites.
Certain parts of the settlement agreement are contingent upon the developer obtaining additional approvals from the Maui Planning Commission and on the developer actually proceeding forward with the project as originally approved.
Supreme Court rejects a disqualified Commissioner’s faulty vote HONOLULU, HAWAII – Yesterday, the Sierra Club won an important step at the Supreme Court in their campaign to stop urban sprawl on some of Hawaii’s best agricultural lands. The Supreme Court issued a decision rejecting contentions that Duane Kanuha was a so-called “holdover” member of the Land Use Commission. The Hawaii Senate, who must provide “advice and consent” on these types of appointments, chose to reject Kanuha’s nomination. Thus the Supreme Court overturned a 2010 decision by the Land Use Commission to approve Castle & Cooke’s proposed development of more than 5,000 homes, a hotel, retail stores, and a medical campus on some of the best farmland in the state.
The Land Use Commission later approval of a 2012 Castle & Cooke development proposal is still pending on appeal before the Intermediate Court of Appeals.
Statement of Robert D. Harris, Director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii
This is a victory, not only for protecting some of the most productive farmland on O`ahu, but in that it protects the right of the public to have a fair and balanced Land Use Commission.
In 2010, while the Koa Ridge hearing process was on-going, the Hawai’i Senate rejected Mr. Kanuha’s appointment to a second term as a Land Use Commissioner. In voting to reject him, some Senators referenced that Mr. Kanuha freely admitted he was not in legal compliance with the requirement to be substantially familiar with traditional Hawaiian land usage or cultural land practices (he was the designated individual to have such a background). Other Senators expressed concern with his developer background and the slant of the Commission towards overdeveloping land without consideration of protecting Hawaii’s finite agricultural resources.
Despite the Senate’s rejection, Mr. Kanuha continued to serve on the Commission. The Sierra Club contested that, under the law, he could no longer serve as a Commissioner on the Koa Ridge matter: he shouldn’t ask questions, steer deliberations, and cast a vote on the project. Governor Lingle should have appointed someone else to take his place.
Castle & Cooke and the Commission actively opposed the Sierra Club’s position, and chose to proceed with the Koa Ridge deliberations. Castle & Cooke and the Land Use Commission’s gamble failed. The Supreme Court agreed with the Sierra Club on all substantive points of the case, specifically holding “Mr. Kanuha was not a valid holdover member” and as such “the LUC lacked the requisite number of votes to approve the reclassification.”
This decision is an important step for protecting Oahu’s farmlands, quality of life, and for smart planning. Hawaii’s citizens and future generations deserve a Land Use Commission that is fair, balanced, and duly-appointed. The Commission’s makeup over the past decade has consisted mostly of developers, representative of developers, or representatives of the construction industry. It is unclear how the public could reasonably expect this body to fulfill its charge to protect agricultural land as it hears petitions to develop key remaining parcels.
The Sierra Club, as environmental watchdogs, will continue to press for solutions that address Hawaii’s housing needs while encouraging the preservation of farmland, smart growth, and reduced traffic congestion. We can chart a course that solves these issues, without having to pursue the tired method of simply building more urban sprawl.
Sierra Club of Hawaii
Founded in 1968, the Hawai`i Chapter of the Sierra Club is the state’s largest and most active grassroots environmental organization. The Club actively promotes reducing the impacts of global climate change by encouraging the development of clean renewable energy, promoting sustainable practices, and ensuring our fragile native habitat is protected from harm. www.sierraclubhawaii.com
Contact: Robert D. Harris, 808.220.4306
September 1, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sierra Club Endorses Senator Brian Schatz
Honolulu, Hawai`i – Today, Hawaii’s largest grassroots environmental organization announced its official endorsement of Senator Brian Schatz for the 2014 U.S. Senate election. Members and leaders of the Sierra Club cited the Senator’s commitment to clean energy and long history of environmental leadership as the central reason for the endorsement, and pledged to lend its volunteer strength to the Schatz campaign. The vote to endorse Senator Brian Schatz was unanimous.
The Maui Group of the Sierra Club held their annual meeting on Febrary 2nd 2013 at Kaunoa Senier Center in Spreckelsville. The public was invited to come and hear what the Sierra Club has been doing to preserve Maui’s clean water, ocean access, and quality of life. The Sierra Club is the public’s watchdog and the theme of this year’s meeting is, “Sierra Club – Working for You”.