A Tough Session, But Environment’s Protected

Rep. Gil Riviere

By Rep. Gil Riviere

It is over. The 2012 legislative session ended May 3, and I am pleased to report that nearly all of the anti-environmental bills failed. More than a dozen bills came perilously close to passage, but intense public pressure appears to have firmed up opposition in the Senate.

By all accounts, this session was unprecedented for the concerted effort in the House of Representatives to exempt state projects from environmental reviews. Early on, at the conclusion of one hearing, Rep. Cynthia Thielen told me that she had never, in 20 years, seen such an awful agenda of terrible legislation. Unfortunately, ugly bills kept coming.

Rep. Thielen and I led the opposition in numerous hearings and during intense floor debates. In addition to our strong opposition in the House, we had multiple editorials printed in newspapers, and I was able to move the discussion onto several radio stations and onto a popular television program. Links to many of these interviews and articles are available at GilRiviere.Info.

Of course, it was ultimately the Senate that held the line and did not allow the bills to pass, but I must say that I enjoyed the challenge of helping inform the public and other legislators about the dangers of these bills.

In other legislative matters, the budget negotiations went longer than expected, which caused a scramble and extension of time to pass dozens of related bills. The Department of Agriculture will have additional resources to defend against invasive species. The inter-island electricity regulatory bill was, unfortunately, picked up by the Senate and passed on the final day.

Just as Oahu residents are very concerned about the cost of the proposed rail system, they should be very concerned about writing a blank check for a billion-dollar inter-island cable. Although proponents now claim the cable is not targeted for any particular islands or any particular energy source, an amendment I submitted to exclude Lanai and Molokai failed. Residents ask why their islands should be covered with 420-foot-tall windmills so that people on Oahu can pay expensive energy rates for intermittent power.

One of the final votes of the session was to kill a bill that would have allowed for special development zones around transit stations. This bill would have excluded projects from fees which are needed to offset impacts on the public infrastructure. Most alarming, the bill would have required approval of major development projects within 55 days, an impossible deadline for public comment and proper review by decision makers.

As Mark Twain reportedly said “No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the Legislature is in session.” Fortunately, the session is over.

There are a number of ways to contact our office. We work year round, so you’re always welcome to visit us in Room 319 at the State Capitol, call 586-6380, fax 586-6381 or email RepRiviere@capitol.hawaii. gov.