The Hawaii State Legislature is in special session this week, largely to focus on whether to legalize gay marriage in Hawaii.
However, the Senate will take up other issues including the confirmation of some of the Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s nominees.
The Sierra Club-Hawaii Chapter has come out in opposition to Genevieve Salmonson’s appointment as Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control.
Her confirmation hearing is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Robert Harris, president of the Sierra Club-Hawaii Chapter, said the Office of Environmental Quality Control, which is charged with protecting Hawaii’s environmental quality and resolving public concerns, suffers from a clear lack of quality leadership.
“It has been unable to pass administrative rules in over a decade and has not substantively updated Hawaii’s environmental review laws in years,” Harris said. “Ms. Salmonson, who has served in this office previously for two terms, cannot provide the leadership needed nor inspire public confidence in her ability to fairly hear and resolve environmental concerns.”
The Sierra Club is largely focusing on Salmonson’s role in what they are “the (Hawaii) Superferry debacle.”
The Hawaii Superferry was given the go-ahead to operate between islands without having to perform an Environmental Impact Statement.
The Hawaii Supreme Court later ruled the study was necessary and as a result, the Superferry ceased operations.
“She approved the Department of Transportation’s request to exempt the Superferry from environmental review. In reviewing that decision, Hawaii’s Environmental Council voted 9 to 1 that the exemption was inappropriately applied. Ms. Salmonson, as a voting member of that Environmental Council, was the single ‘nay’ vote in opposition. The Supreme Court of Hawaii also unanimously concluded Ms. Salmonson was wrong,” Harris said.
“If Ms. Salmonson had asked the right questions and determined that an EIS was necessary, this sordid episode in Hawaii’s history may never have happened and the state might have saved millions of dollars.”
Salmonson served in this role under two previous governors, Gov. Ben Cayetano, a Democrat, and Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican. After her terms ended, former State Senator Gary Hooser took the position until he was elected to the Kauai County Council.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Louise Kim McCoy, said the governor continues to support Salmonson and her appointment as Director to the Office of Environmental Quality Control.
“She previously held this position for several years under two prior administrations, and therefore has the necessary demonstrated experience,” McCoy said. “She is highly qualified and capable of being appointed once again.”
McCoy said since there concerns were raised about her nomination, the Governor’s Office has been engaged in discussions with Senators to determine their level of support.