What You Need To Know About Hawaii’s New Environmental Court

What You Need To Know About Hawaii’s New Environmental Court

You may have heard that the Hawaii Legislature, after an intensive years-long effort by environmental groups, recently created a new court with specialized jurisdiction that could have a big impact on how property and business owners are treated by Hawaii’s courts. Known as the “Environmental Court,” this new court has been given the exclusive jurisdiction to hear most civil and criminal cases affecting the environment. Because Hawaii’s court is only just getting off the ground and is in uncharted territory (only one other state—Vermont—has a court with a similar statewide mandate), those who stand to lose the most in this new court—property and business owners—have many unanswered questions. Here’s what you need to know. Why A New Court? According to its proponents, the new Environmental Court is not expressly intended to change outcomes in environmental cases, and is merely designed to bring “consistency” to rulings in such cases, and to remove “improper influences” (supposedly by business and property owners) from judicial decisionmaking in such cases. Proponents point to two aspects of the new court: No New Judges First, it does not have separate physical facilities, and the judges who have been appointed to staff it are not new to the bench. Nor did the Judiciary request more money in its budget to accommodate the new court. Instead, the circuit courts have simply established a new division in each county’s existing court system, with a sitting judge, or judges, assigned to the Environmental Court. Many of these judges already preside over cases which involve issues that affect the environment, so are familiar with the subject matter, and this is, at...
Clean Energy Equals $418M Tax Hike?

Clean Energy Equals $418M Tax Hike?

Hawaii’s clean energy goals are the most aggressive in the nation, according to the home page of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI). Let’s find out just how aggressive some of these goals are. Who is HCEI? It might sound like an independent nonprofit but it’s not; it’s actually a state government program under DBEDT. It’s been in the news recently because it released a draft report (written with the help of the International Council on Clean Transportation, an independent nonprofit that was awarded a $100,000 contract by DBEDT in April 2014). This 173-page report, all paid for with tax dollars, has a lot of recommendations, but we will concentrate on one of them for now. The draft report notes that Hawaii’s fuel taxes are low compared to gasoline taxes in the European Union. (Ours were fourth highest among the U.S. states in 2014, but apparently that doesn’t matter.) The report says that using gasoline for motor vehicles has “substantial externalities” including energy security, air pollution, traffic accidents, and traffic congestion. So the State could increase the tax rate to account for the social costs and increase the cost competitiveness of technologies that use alternative fuels. It also says that because demand for gasoline is relatively inelastic in the short term, economists tend to regard gasoline taxes as an economically efficient means of raising tax revenue. It recommends that the state tax on gasoline be hoisted by up to 400%, for an additional 85 cents a gallon, which, it says, would bring in an additional $418 million per year. Translation: Motor vehicles use fossil fuel, which is not a...
The Brighter Side: Honoring Human Achievement

The Brighter Side: Honoring Human Achievement

By Malia Hill Tomorrow, March 23, some people here in Hawaii (and around the world) will be shutting off their lights and sitting in darkness in order to honor “Earth Hour”—a largely symbolic plea to the governments of the world to take action on climate change.  And it’s likely to be as effective as sitting at home in the dark generally is. In contrast, I suggest that you to spend that hour as I plan to do myself—sitting in the light, celebrating the human achievement that has brought us to unprecedented health, safety, and comfort.  The same human ingenuity that I believe will be a bigger part of protecting the land and preserving the environment than any number of protests in the dark—and with far fewer unfortunate metaphorical allegories. Because, when you think about it, the scope of human achievement is something we ought to celebrate more often.  Thanks to improvements in science, technology, and medicine, we are able to live longer, more healthy lives. Vaccines, advancements in medicine, and even modern sanitation have helped stave off disease, made childbirth safer, and allowed more children to grow up healthy and strong.  Advancements in communications and transportation have made the world smaller and more accessible.  Education is no longer the exclusive province of the rich or privileged.  By any measure, our lives have been improved by through human ingenuity and innovation. In fact, you need to look no further than your own house to recognize how far we’ve come.  Refrigeration has changed and improved our diet, making it more varied and healthy (not to mention safer).  Technology has freed us...

Dale’s Top Headlines

By Dale Evans Quotes The entire transit industry is beset by high overtime pay. More than 8,000 (that’s more than one out of nine) transit workers in New York City earn more than $100,000 per year. The highest-paid city employee in Madison Wisconsin is a bus driver. — Randal O’Toole Highways in this country are typically designed to last about 50 years—if properly maintained (which is often not the case). Bridges can last 75 to 100 years, but often need replacement much sooner if their capacity is no longer sufficient. What this means is that a brownfield concession of 50 years or longer will very likely require substantial capital investment to reconstruct much of the pavement during its term of years. And unless economic growth stops, or cars and trucks become obsolete, most such highways and bridges will also require capacity expansion during a 50-year concession period. — Robert Poole Top Headlines Construction is complete on behemoth airship, first flight planned, W.J. Hennigan, LA Times, 1.04.13 Fiscal Cliff Deal Moves Nation Closer To Bankruptcy, E21, Economnic Policies for the 21st Century, 1.02.13 Cox and Archer: Why $16 Trillion Only Hints at the True U.S. Debt. Hiding the government’s liabilities from the public makes it seem that we can tax our way out of mounting deficits. We can’t. Chris Cox, Bill Archer, Wall Street Journal, 11.26.12 A Budget that can’t be balanced! Hal Mason,YouTube, 3.14.12 Documenting 24 Hours In The Lives Of Transportation Workers Across the Globe,Fastcoexist, The incredible shrinking stimulus, Suy Khimm, Washington Post, 12.21.12 Taxes and Economics Louisiana Governor Jindal proposes ending state income tax, Kathy Finn, Reuters, 1.11.13 The Top Transportation Issues to...

Grassroot Perspective: Opinion Poll Manipulation, Teachers Unions and Can Government Stop A Hurricane? (Hint: No.)

A weekly liberty briefing and news guide to keep you informed and prepared on what’s UP to more freedom or DOWN to bigger, more intrusive government. Quote of the Week: “Let us not despair but act. Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past – let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” – John F. Kennedy Local News Conflicting opinion polls: but just whose report should the people believe? This week you may have noticed that multiple local news outlets released seemingly contradictory tracking polls for several Hawaii candidates running for office, raising sharp suspicions among residents that media bias may be attempting to manipulate voter behavior. But whose numbers should the people trust? ANALYSIS: Famed political scientist and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said that polls are a snapshot of public opinion but that it is impossible to lead a nation based on what polls say. Reflecting on his time in the Nixon Administration, Kissinger went on to say that leadership required intelligence, an understanding of historical cycles and courage. Here in Hawaii, we would be wise to heed that advice: no matter what you see in the papers, no matter what numbers polls say, you as a citizen must decide for yourself what you will do, independent of what others are doing (or not doing). Humans by nature are conformity creatures – in ambiguous situations we tend to look to what others are doing as a judge for what we should do, think or feel....