POSTED: 18 OCTOBER 2007 - 4:00am HST

TGI #15: The Governor's SuperConspiracy

image above: On the tarmac Admiral Fallon, Governor Lingle and President Bush agree on something
Photo by Jim Young of Reuters on 21 November 2006

[Editor's Note: Normally these columns are scheduled to appear every other Sunday in the Kauai Garden Island News.The final published version may vary from this text as TGI retains the right to correct and edit the material. The copyright to the published version is held by TGI owner Kauai Publishing. Some material in TGI columns may have appeared on already]

by Juan Wilson on 18 October 2007 Revision 3.2 071018

The Business Before Us
The most important legal issue facing the state of Hawaii today is the operation of the Superferry. From a judicial standpoint the issue has been decided. The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that our environmental protection law (Chapter 343) requires that the Superferry conduct an Environmental Assessment (EA) that would likely lead to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Those processes could take three years. The law specifies that the operation of the Superferry cannot take place until the environmental studies are completed and a permit to operate issued. The Superferry is tied up in Honolulu. Case closed.

Not quite. The governor has called for a special session of the legislature to pass a law to exempt the Superferry from our state laws. An out of control executive branch can flaunt the law if it whips up enough fear and populist fervor.

This has already happened at the federal level. After entering Afghanistan, the then popular Bush saw an chance to go after the oil in Iraq and Iran. He falsely pointed a finger at Iraq and got a green light and blank check from the US legislature to take us down the course we have followed for the last five years. We got the Patriot Acts One and Two. We got lies about WMDs. Bush tossed the Geneva Convention and we got torture and Abu Ghraib. We got lots of exceptions to the rules... all to advance a hidden agenda.

Needless to say, it has been a disaster. We have squandered good will, money and blood. We are hated by many and almost bankrupt, as Bush struggles forward into the deepening quagmire.

Chief Executives Out of Control
How does that relate to Hawaii? Well, we have an out of control chief executive running our state. She is Governor Linda Lingle. Her rightwing agenda is to serve big business and the military. The perfect expression of these two goals is the building and operation of the Superferry.

The Lingle Administration conspired with the Hawaii Superferry Corporation to clear the legal hurdles for the ferry to get up and running on an expedited schedule. That path did not include any environmental review. I call this cabal the "SuperConspiracy". Despite much evidence to the contrary, the SuperConspiracy denied that the ferry had military links to the peculiar location of the Stryker Brigade in the State of Hawaii. The siting of the Strykers in Hawaii happened without an EIS too and is being challenged now.

To operate as a profitable private business, the Superferry builder, Austal LTD, advised the SuperConspiracy to design a much smaller ferry with greater energy efficiency. However, the ships were built to military specifications (to carry the large Stryker force) with nonmilitary state and public funds. The Governor had learned the first lesson of the Bush governing style: Loot the public trust to fund your military-industrial agenda. Privatize your war making capability.

The SuperConspiracy charged ahead like a rhino. When the Supreme Court made its historic ruling on an EA requirement, the SuperConspiracy decided to accelerate the start of operations. They decided to jump the gun on scheduled service to Kauai and Maui for a ridiculous five dollars a pop. It was a popular idea on Oahu. Then they hit the brick wall. Maui and Kauai would not play ball. By legally (Maui) and physically (Kauai) blocking entry to their harbors, they foiled the SuperConspiracy.

Superferry is to Lingle as Iraq is to Bush

This is where we come to the analogy of Bush/Iraq and Lingle/Superferry. Both executives have made disastrous choices. They have appealed to populist sentiment and used fear mongering. They both have used appeals to their legislatures to turn over the law of the land.

There is no doubt that the decision to enter into Iraq has been a disaster. The responsibility rests with the US Congress that gave Bush the go ahead in 2002. The Kauai anti-Superferry demonstrators, called kooks today, were the same people who were demonstrating against entering the Iraq War, claiming that George Bush was leading us down a rat hole. I know, I was there. We held signs that read "No Iraqnam", "No Blood for Oil" etc. I suspect some of you that then shook your heads and shouted at us from your SUV's are the same ones who support the Superferry now. After five years in Iraq, are you still supporters of our Iraq policy? Getting it right with foresight is important.

For George Bush, the real issue of his presidency should have been to solve America's environmental and energy problems. Instead, to obtain cheap oil, he has made both problems worse by creating an unending war in the Middle East. Besides blaming the US Congress for Bush's folly, we can blame ourselves for ignoring our Constitution to go on with cheap happy motoring.

The Governor is now asking the Hawaii Legislature to do much the same thing over the Superferry. She is demanding that the legislature simply ignore the laws of the State and give the SuperConspiracy the green-light to do whatever it wants. For what? Once again, for our motoring convenience - Interstate H-4.

A Bad Exception to the Rule
This exception would allow the Superferry to begin unrestricted operations during the period of an environmental review process. This is the equivalent to asking to have unprotected sexual relations while awaiting the results of an AIDS test. No way.
What will the results be if the SuperConspiracy gets it's way. An environmental disaster for humpback whales, sea turtles and monk seals is a possibility. We really don't know if humpback whales can share their calving waters with daily operations of a 40 mph ferry the size of a football field.

But that possible disaster will only be the beginning of the story that is unraveling. The precedent of an exception to environmental law for a "popular" program, regardless of its environmental impact, will be even more sinister in the long run. We will be able to blame our clueless legislature to no avail.

The floodgates will be open. Any corporation speculating on doing big business in Hawaii will be tempted to lobby for an exception to Chapter 343 on grounds that their project is popular and good for Hawaii.

If that happens the governor will have reached a major milestone on her real agenda - the unrestricted growth of business and the military in Hawaii. The irksome environmental laws protecting us will be swept under the carpet or ignored, much like the Kauai Planning Department ignores pesky Special Management Area (SMA) requirements and Visitor Destination Area (VDA) restrictions.

This will be a catastrophe for Hawaii. Of course the people on Oahu won't recognize it as such. There are almost a million people on Oahu. On its own, Oahu is already lost, not sustainable and overburdened by development. Where the real difference will be is on the Outer Islands. Suburbanization will accelerate on the Big Island, Maui and Kauai.

If our legislature lays waste to the intent of Chapter 343, it will be the kiss of death for rural Kauai. We'll be a suburb of San Diego.

According to one state senator I spoke to, this Special Session of the legislature is a done deal and there are not the votes to stop an approval of starting some sort of ferry service. The only question left is what, if any, restrictions there might be on their operations. His suggestion was to make the legislature hear our voices from the outer islands. Make a great wind.

A Compromise to Save our Islands

No consensus is possible between the SuperConspiracy and those committed to the aina. The best we can hope for is for is that the legislature realize they will be stuck with the responsibility for the ensuing mess if they enable this "Drunken Sailor".

It appears Lingle has no intent to admit she has made even a tiny mistake in any of this. She is not even looking for a way to back out of the corner she has painted herself into. If necessary, she is going down with the ship. We will have to rely on the judgment of the legislators. We can hope that they have the depth of character to look beyond the short term and angry disappointment. Getting it wrong on this issue will be giving up on a sustainable future for Hawaii.

I believe that part of the populist support for the Superferry stems from the inherent understanding of the environmental gloom facing Oahu and the desire to have free access to the resources and space of the outer islands.

But, solving that problem is the real issue, not getting the Superferry running. If there is any sustainable solution for Hawaii after the Peak Oil Wave passes over us, it will be founded on the outer islands which are not overdeveloped. There we can grow food and provide resources that will be needed throughout the state. To overrun these islands now with "easy access" and "economic growth" will doom all of Hawaii.

There is a small window of opportunity to affect our legislature. Let them know the conditions under which you would allow passenger ferry service to begin between the islands. Maybe we'll be lucky and those conditions will be reasonable to the legislature yet unacceptable to the SuperConspiracy.

Governor Lingle's "Patriot Act" is on the table. Act now!

The Garden Island News Column Menu Listing of all "Island Breath" articles submitted to TGI
30 September 2007 - 8:00pm HST

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