Environmental and cultural groups call on governor to rescind order suspending laws

Several environmental and cultural groups joined the call for Governor Abercrombie to rescind his emergency proclamation suspending 25 laws for five years in order to expedite the clean up of unexploded ordnance on public lands.  The Honolulu Star Advertiser reports:

The Sierra Club Hawaii chapter and several other environmental and cultural groups urged Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Monday to withdraw an emergency proclamation that he made to help the Army Corps of Engineers remove unexploded ordnance, but the governor declined.

The environmental and cultural groups say Abercrombie misused his emergency powers in June when he suspended nearly two dozen state land use and environmental regulations for five years to help the corps access and remove discarded military explosives.

The groups said that Abercrombie’s decision was “ill advised and undermined transparency, accountability and community involvement.”

This is not the first time Abercrombie has  evoked emergency powers to suspend laws:

In April, Abercrombie also proclaimed a civil defense emergency and suspended more than two dozen state procurement, public works, land use and environmental laws for five years to help relocate a nesting colony of more than 400 Hawaiian nene geese near Lihue Airport on Kauai.

While the nene relocation has been previously reported by the news media, it was not apparent that Abercrombie had invoked his emergency powers under the state’s civil defense law. The governor cited the potential for collisions between the nene and aircraft as a threat to public safety.

“Plainly, it’s a broader fear that the justification here — to protect the public, essentially — could be utilized for just about any circumstance,” said Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club Hawaii chapter, which sent the appeal jointly with the Conservation Council for Hawaii, Friends of Lanai, Hawaii’s Thousand Friends, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Life of the Land, Malama Kauai and Na Kupuna Moku o Keawe.

“Using that rationale and logic is basically saying the executive has all-encompassing power regardless of what the Legislature has done,” he said.

It seems that Governor Abercrombie’s “New Day” includes accruing imperial powers for the executive branch. Given the high stakes involving land and economic development in Hawai’i, this prospect is extremely troubling.



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