An Action Alert Regarding SB762

Aloha Members,

I just received this action alert from Robert Harris of the Sierra Club. Although it is not one of our Caucus priorities, I felt it was worth passing along to our own members. You may read his full action alert below:

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We really need your help. On Monday, the Senate is hearing a bill (SB762) that would automatically approve any application in 30 days if an agency fails to establish maximum time periods for application processing. It would also automatically approve any application before the State Historic Preservation Division (a notoriously underfunded and understaffed office) in 60 days.

We’re all for speeding up government, but automatic approval of any project is bad policy. Permits should be granted on their merits, not because of mistake or governmental inefficiency. No community should suffer because government failed to perform.

Hawaii has already been bitten by similar proposals. For example, in 1996 the Board of Land and Natural Resources voted 3-2 to deny Hawaii Electric Light Company’s request to install two combustion turbines on conservation district land in Ke`ahole on the Island of Hawaii. One member recused himself because he held stock in the utility. Despite the vote, a Big Island circuit court held that since a majority of all 6 members of the BLNR are needed to ratify any action, no legally-binding decision was reached prior to the deadline for action. Therefore, the court held, the permit was automatically granted (despite a majority of votes saying “no”).

Let’s make sure bad projects don’t become automatically permitted in your community. Can you please submit email testimony to: EDTTestimony@Capitol.hawaii.gov this weekend?  Please indicate the measure (SB762), date and time of the hearing (January 31st, 1:30 pm).

Talking points:

  • I am opposed to SB762.
  • Agencies shouldn’t just respond to developer applications. They should also consider the public’s concerns and natural resource needs. Automatic permit approvals tilt the balance too far in favor of development.
  • There are better ideas to be explored. Like creating an office of the ombudsmen to fix problems with misbehaving agencies. Or simply finding ways to give underfunded agencies the resources they need to perform.
  • We need real leadership, with real solutions. If government is broken, we should fix it. We shouldn’t just turn agencies into rubber stamps for development.
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