HONOLULU — In response to illegal grading of Hawaii Kai Marina sludge on the Waianae Coast, Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine introduced legislation to restore environmental justice throughout Oahu’s communities. Bills 35, 36, and 37 were drafted with input from Leeward Coast community leaders and public policy advocates, and developed in response to the rampant and illegal stockpiling and grading occurring throughout Leeward communities.
“It’s simply unacceptable for commercial enterprises and individuals to continue to use the Leeward Coast as their dumping ground. These new rules will bring environmental justice to the Leeward Coast and communities throughout the City & County of Honolulu. New enforcement tools will help the City hold willful and repeat violators accountable to the community,” Councilmember Kymberly Marcos Pine said.
Councilmember Pine has been working with community and environmental advocates in the Leeward Coast community to make environmental justice a priority by targeting illegal stockpiles and dumping along the Leeward Coast and throughout Oahu. The pervasiveness of the problem was not widely known by the public until last fall when a trucking company illegally dumped thousands of pounds of dredged sludge from the Hawaii Kai Marina on agriculturally-zoned land in Waianae.
“For far too long our community has been an illegal dumping ground for industry and has carried a disproportionate environmental burden for the whole state of Hawaii. It’s about time for legislators and regulators to send a powerful message to those who wish to continually operate illegally on our coastline. These illegal operations affect our people, our land, and our seas,” said Pake Salmon, a community advocate with Ka Wai Ola O Waianae, a community group that fights illegal dumping along the Leeward Coast.
Councilmember Pine’s bills will bring stiff penalties, including 500% increases in civil fines and criminal prosecutions for the most egregious cases of careless illegal stockpiling and grading. The proposed rule changes will also tighten up the application process for obtaining stockpiling and grading permits, provide the City departments with more enforcement options, and prevent the stockpiling of hazardous or non-natural materials on agriculturally-zoned land.
Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all communities in the development, implementation, and enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies affecting our communities’ natural resources. Fair treatment means that no community should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies. Meaningful involvement means that the community has an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health.
Bills 35, 36, and 37 will be formally introduced on Wednesday, April 16th at the City Council meeting. For a complete description of the proposed changes please see the addendum below.
Summary of the Environmental Justice Bill Package:
· Increase maximum civil fines for violations of the Land Use Ordinance, and Public Works Infrastructure Ordinance by 500 percent from $1,000 per violation to $5,000 per violation per day the violation exists.
· Create new category of ‘willful violations’ which creates new minimum civil fine of $1,000 per day for willful violations of the land use ordinance or grading violations.
· Defines ‘willful violations’ as Director’s discretion considering relevant mitigating and aggravating factors including, but not limited to, the effect, if any, of the violation; the degree and extent of harm caused by the violation; the cost of rectifying the damage; whether the violator saved money through noncompliance; whether the violator took reasonable measures to comply with this Ordinance; whether the violator acted in bad faith; whether the violator reported the violation; and the proper record of the violator in complying or failing to comply with this Ordinance is present and past administrative actions.
· New penalties for repeat violators – double fines for violators who commit violations two or more times in a 12-month period.
· New penalties for repeat violators – repeat violators at same site in 12-month period will be subject to criminal prosecution.
· New enforcement tools for the City – City officials can demand that the violator restore the land to its original condition and obtain a certificate of completion from the director. Orders may be enforced through the courts.
· Proactive Enforcement – To combat parties from illegally grading and then obtaining a permit only after they are caught and fined, permits will be denied when owner or developer willfully violated city grading rules. This provision will protect ‘mom and pop’ who accidentally violate the statute, but will hold construction and development companies to strict compliance with the laws.
· Stockpiling limits on agricultural land – restrict stockpiling of certain material on agriculturally zoned land so that contaminated material, construction materials, or other material that may impair the agricultural productivity of agricultural soils, cannot be stockpiled on agriculturally-zoned land.
Councilmember Pine represents residents of District One (Ewa, Ewa Beach, Kapolei, Honokai Hale, Ko Olina, Nanakuli, Maili, Waianae, Makaha, Keaau, Makua) and chairs the Intergovernmental Affairs and Human Services Committee.
Ka Wai Ola O Waianae is a community advisory committee whose mission is to reduce & mitigate illegal dumping & non point source pollution along the Waianae Coastline.