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Monday, December 12, 2016

a simply request


Happy Holidays from Life of the Land, Hawai`i’s own community-driven environmental group! We hope that this holiday season is full of peace and joy for you and all those you love.

Life of the Land has been at the forefront of energy issues in Hawai`i before the issue was “sexy”. The recent Public Utility Commission (PUC) evidentiary hearings on NextEraʻs proposed takeover of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) again distinguished us as a resource for all sectors of our community. 

NextEra’s proposed takeover awakened Hawai`iʻs people and businesses to the importance of our own resources and values. The PUC process took 18 intense months, from December 2014 to July 2016, but the result was well worth it as communities across Hawai`i nei started to realize what we have and what we value most.

NextEra’s proposed takeover of HEI resulted in more groups coming forward to address energy policies, rooftop solar, and climate change. More collaboration occurred by those who worked together to oppose the merger.

In recent months, large numbers of parties in PUC proceedings have signed onto a single document, and where necessary, individual entities file an additional statement. This is a new development, and a positive one.

Life of the Landʻs continuous research is what informs our expertise and understanding of the many issues and threads in the complex tapestry of Hawai`i. This knowledge that has become sought after by students, attorneys, and experts in Hawai`i and across the world. It is always shared graciously. We have participated in and moderated energy panels on other islands sharing our research with communities across our islands.

Life of the Land has and is achieving success in working to get more community voices into energy discussions. We have been meeting with individuals and community groups throughout the state, as well as speaking with and mentoring some Richardson law students.

The amazing connections and relationships with experts that we have been building and that we continue to build have afforded us entrance into technical venues that were once closed to the community. 

Life of the Land is the only community group that has been permitted into PUC rate proceedings. We are gearing up for the HELCO case which involves a proposed rate hike, herbicide and mechanical control of vegetation, requests for ratepayers to pay for botched utility RFPs, and proposed financial incentives and rewards for utility actions.

People all around the world have their eye on Hawai`i. As the most isolated archipelago on the planet, we have the most to gain by creating sound, thoughtful energy policy that will honor our past, serve our present and work for a sustainable future for those yet to be born.

We take hope in the fact that the states are the laboratory of democracy and Hawai`i is seen as one of the leaders in the energy sector. Yet Life of the Land is always mindful that all energy projects, and all development projects, have an impact and that impacts upon our fragile environment must be analyzed in a fair, open, and transparent process. 

Honoring our past and Hawai`i’s rich history, Life of the Land has filed a letter with the Board of Land and Natural Resources opposing the proposed commercialization and destruction of historic elements of Thomas Square in Honolulu citing the rich history of the park … a people’s gathering place, a public square, you might say.

Life of the Land has been able to achieve the results that it has through your continued support of our work. We cannot do this without you. Life of the Land is the leading community energy group and we humbly ask for your support so that we can continue to work on energy and environmental issues to ensure that our communities are treated fairly and responsibly.

Over the next few years we will continue working in collaboration with others to strengthen the progressive movement as a whole, while assuming a leadership role in energy, including more educational efforts to help others understand Hawai`i’s energy issues and environmental landscape. 

Mahalo nui for your support. It is having a terrific impact on Hawai`i and her people!

Aloha `Aina,

Henry Curtis                                                Kat Brady
Executive Director                                        Assistant Executive Director

Life of the Land is a 501c3 charitable organization. Donations are tax-deductible

Board of Directors: David Henkin, Art Mori, Lynette Cruz, Miwa Tamanaha, Anne Sturgis, Carrie Ann Shirota

Life of the Land
P.O. Box 37158
Honolulu, HI  96837-0158


Monday, May 2, 2016

Energy Policy is Cornerstone of Sustainability

The role of energy cannot be understated. 
Both internationally, and in Hawai`i, expenditures on energy account for more than ten percent of all expenditures (Energy $$$ > 10% of GDP). Energy drives commerce and industry. Energy costs are the major financial input for agriculture and moving water. See: Energy Plays Dominant Role in Hawai`i Economy

In addition, energy is the number one causer of health impacts, loss of critical habitat, pollution, and climate change. See: Energy Plays Dominant Role in Threats to Hawai`i Residents & Ecosystems

Life of the Land was founded in February 1970, one month after the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) became law, which required federal Environmental Impact Statements (EISs), and two months before the first Earth Day.

During the 1960s HECO spent money on advertisements encouraging ratepayers to increase their use of electricity. In 1971 HECO asked the Public Utilities Commission for the right to pass the advertising costs onto the shoulders of the ratepayers.
Life of the Land intervened. The Commission ruled in favor of the utility. Life of the Land appealed. The Hawaii Supreme Court reversed the ruling.

Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson (1961-1969) asserted in 1970, “Life of the Land is waging a vigorous fight against polluters in and out of court.”
Wall Street Journal (April 5, 1972. Lead story, p A1): “Lawsuits and lobbying efforts by Life of the Land are forcing the state health department and the administration of Gov. John Burns to devote increasing time to pollution matters.”
In 1972, before the only law school in the State opened its doors to its freshman class, 80 law students applied to intern for the summer. Life of the Land accepted 19 students who joined 14 attorneys.
Life of the Land`s actions led to state and federal court decisions dealing with the right of community groups to appeal cases to the courts.
Hawaii Business News (Cover Story, November 1973): “The remarkable thing about Life of the Land is the fact that it has succeeded as well as it has against such a broad and potent array of opposition.”
Star-Bulletin Editorial (May 13, 1975): “Useful Gadfly. ...Life of the Land fills a near-vacuum in the State in terms of a citizens’ lobby to challenge the establishment’s policy decisions ...particularly in the all-important areas of land use and environmental protect."

Honolulu Star-Bulletin (March 14, 1995): Key leaders left mark on the state during Hawaii’s growth years. “The effect a person can have on a place is immeasurable. Here are the 10 people or organizations who, from 1965 to 1975, helped make Hawaii what it is today.” 

The list contained 6 individuals and 4 organizations: John Burns, Tom Gill, Land Use Commission, George Helm, Dan Inouye, Patsy Mink, Bishop Estate, Unions, Life of the Land, Ah Quon McElrath. 

Honorable Mentioned: Henry Kaiser, Frank Fasi, William S. Richardson court, Myron B. Thompson, Robert Oshiro, George Ariyoshi.

HECO first proposed the Wa`ahila Ridge (Kamoku-Pukele) 138-kV Transmission Line in the early 1970s. The proposed line was finally defeated in 2002. 

The Transmission Line would have gone from the Iolani School area (Date St and Kapiolani Blvd), up Saint Louis Heights and into the mauka region of Palolo.
The fight raged from about 1971 to 2002, and involved new legislation, several Environmental Assessments, Environmental Impact Statements, and Conservation District Use Applications. 

In March 1996 Malama O Mānoa and The Outdoor Circle asked Life of the Land to join them in what would amount to the final six year fight.  

During the three decade struggle, over 10,000 residents wrote comments against the proposed line.
Life of the Land has taken a leadership role in energy policy, focusing on the Public Utilities Commission. 

Life of the Land has been an intervenor in 40 Public Utilities Commission regulatory proceedings, and as a non-competitor to HECO, has had access to confidential documents that not all intervenors get to see.
Life of the Land firmly believes that too often problems are examined using silo mentality. Artificial man-made constructs and boundaries are imposed that fail to provide a realistic picture. 

Every energy project has positive and negative economic, environmental, social, cultural, geographic, taxpayer and ratepayer impacts. Every energy project has primary impacts, secondary impacts, cumulative impacts, life cycle impacts, externalities and unintended side-effects.
Life of the Land led efforts to stop the importation of rain forest palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, to get HECO to admit that climate change is real and caused by fossil fuel use, to stop HECO and the Gas Company from importing fracked Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and to oppose invasive renewable energy projects including Big Wind, Inter-island Cables, Aina Koa Pono, Hu Honua, a second wind farm in Kahuku, and the expansion of geothermal in Puna.
Along with other parties, Life of the Land worked on Net Energy Metering, Reliability Standards, Interconnection Issues, and other policy issues.
In January 2016 Life of the Land`s Henry Curtis and Kat Brady were honored with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Lifetime Peacemaker Award for Social Justice Activism from the Church of the Crossroads.
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Energy Plays Dominant Role in Hawai`i Economy

Hawai`i's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014 was $76.2 billion.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration updated its Hawai`i Profile on September 17, 2015.

"Hawaii's geographic isolation makes its energy infrastructure unique among the states. In recent years, more than one-tenth of the state's gross domestic product has been spent on energy, most of that for imported crude oil and petroleum products.”

These figures are consistent with international figures.

World energy consumption refers to the total energy used by all of human civilization. Typically measured per year, it involves all energy harnessed from every energy source applied towards humanity's endeavors across every single industrial and technological sector, across every country. … In 2011, expenditures on energy totaled over 6 trillion USD, or about 10% of the world gross domestic product (GDP).”
Energy drives the world economy at $190,000 per second, $600 million per hour, $15 billion per day. A small fraction of this offers plentiful funds to pay speakers, sponsor conferences, underwrite studies and give out awards.
The world economy grew since 2011. In 2015 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that global fossil fuel subsidies are $5.3 trillion/year. This represents 6.5% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 
“Just over half the figure is the money governments are forced to spend treating the victims of air pollution and the income lost because of ill health and premature deaths. The figure is higher than a 2013 IMF estimate because new data from the World Health Organisation shows the harm caused by air pollution to be much higher than thought.”


Life of the Land estimated the energy sector as 10 percent or more of the Hawai`i economy. The calculations are crude and are summarized below

During the past decade the State imported about 40 million barrels of petroleum per year. The cost per barrel has ranged from $30 - $145. 

Each barrel is imported by a petroleum refinery. The fuel is processed and sold to middle men (electric and gas utilities and gas stations).

The middle men then sell electricity, gas, gasoline, and diesel to end-users. About a third of the petroleum is refined into jet fuel which might be sold directly or indirectly to airlines. Thus each unit of imported petroleum energy is sold two or three times.

Renewable energy produced by an Independent Power Company is sold to an electric utility which sells the electricity to end-users. Thus it is sold twice. 

Rooftop solar is not sold at all. Even under net energy metering, it is traded with, but not sold to, the utility. The cost of rooftop solar is reflected in the cost to buy and install solar panels.

Vehicles are fueled by gasoline and diesel. Pump prices are volatile.  

The petroleum numbers exclude coal imports, bottled gas, on-site renewable energy installation and production, and the cost to install energy efficiency devices designed to decrease energy bills.

The total amount of money spent on energy in Hawai`i ranges approximately from $7.5-10 billion/year.

Energy is a major cost factor in agriculture and the movement of water. 

Fossil fuel use is the number one global cost factor in health impacts. 

Fossil fuels rank number one globally in producing air, water and land-based pollution and in heating up the planet. See: Energy Plays Dominant Role in Threats to Hawai`i Residents & Ecosystems

Without fossil fuels the First and Second Industrial Revolutions (c. 1750, c. 1870) would never have occurred.

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Energy Plays Dominant Role in Threats to Hawai`i Residents & Ecosystems

Fossil Fuel use is a threat to every form of life.  

Honolulu Harbor Oil Tanks

A National Academy of Science Study, conducted at the request of U.S. Congress, analyzed energy-induced health impacts. “Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of EnergyProduction and Use” (2010) found that in the U.S. 20,000 people die prematurely each year from fossil fuel air pollution, and that U.S. health impacts cost $120 billion/year. 

The study excluded health impacts associated with global warming; burning oil for trains, ships and planes; coal mining; and coal byproducts dumped into streams and rivers.

Waiau Oil Spill

A Chevron pipeline ruptured on May 14, 1996, discharging 41,000 gallons of No. 6 bunker fuel oil into Waiawa Stream adjacent to HECO’s Waiau Power Plant.

Being slightly heavier than fresh water, the oil slowly sank through the Waiawa Stream water table, contaminating life forms along its spread and descent.

Being slightly lighter than salt water, when it reached Pearl Harbor, the oil slowly rose through the water column once again killing life forms.

Pools of submerged oil contaminated the ten acre Waiawa Marsh, a restricted wildlife area and home to the state's four endangered species of water birds, the Hawaiian stilt, coot, duck, and the moor hen.

Oil covered approximately 90,000,000 square feet of open water in Pearl Harbor during the first six days after the spill.

Areas impacted included freshwater and saltwater wetlands, shorelines and intertidal areas including mangroves, mudflats, rocky shorelines, sandy beaches, riprap, seawalls and piers.

Regulators estimated that 77,965 linear feet of intertidal habitat was oiled.
The clean-up resulted in the repeated, episodic high-pressure washing of the Pearl Harbor shoreline, which destabilized and eroded shoreline soils. The shoreline continued to emit an oil sheen for more than a month.

This pollution had a devastating impact on egg, larval, juvenile and adult stages of recreationally and commercially valuable finfish, invertebrates, green turtles, and birds.

Initially federal and state regulators estimated that the habitat would take ten years to recover, but later revised estimates upwards to fifteen to twenty years.

Rainforest Biofuel

Palm Oil is principally produced in one area of the world: Indonesia and Malaysia. Just a few years ago Indonesia and Malaysia accounted for 88% of world production and 91% of world trade in palm oil.

The Wall Street Journal ran a front page lead story on the palm oil scandal.

Wild fires were being set in Borneo to clear land for logging and planting of palm oil plantations.

Huge releases of greenhouse gases were being emitted from burning peat soil. In the late 1990s Indonesia was briefly the #1 greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

The Wall Street Journal article also pointed out the environmental destruction, the loss of ecosystems, the displacement of native peoples, and the man made cloud which shrouded the region.

Under international pressure, the palm oil industry adopted 39 weak standards.

Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) proposed importing palm oil from producers who adhered to just six of these standards as long as the producer was working towards “no child labor” and working towards “free, prior and informed consent” of native peoples at the particular plantation where the biofuel would come from, regardless of what the producers did on their other plantations.

Borneo is the third largest island in the world with an area of 287,000 square miles.  Borneo is divided three ways: 73 percent is Indonesian, 26 percent is Malaysian and one percent is the sovereign country of Brunei.

The Borneo rainforest is 140 million years old, making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. There are about 15,000 species of flowering plants, 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of terrestrial mammals, 420 species of resident birds, and 440 freshwater fish species.

The Borneo rainforest is one of the few remaining natural habitats for the endangered orangutan. It is an important refuge for many endemic forest species, including the Borneo elephant, the eastern Sumatran rhinoceros, the Bornean clouded leopard, the Hose's palm civet and the dayak fruit bat.

Borneo has significant cave systems. Clearwater Cave has one of the world's longest underground rivers. Deer Cave is home to over three million bats, with guano accumulated to over 330 feet deep.

Military Oil Spills

The Navy’s Red Hill facility is leaking into the ground near or over the aquifer.

The 20-mile Petroleum, Oils and Lubricants pipeline connected the Air Force`s Wakakalaua Fuel Storage Annex in Wahiawa and Kipapa Gulch Fuel Storage Annex in Waipio with Hickam Air Force Base.

Over a half century timeframe, 18 billion gallons went up, and 14 billion gallons came down. The system is empty. The remaining 4 billion gallons leaked, evaporated, was stolen and/or was an accounting error.

More Oil Spills

Dead oiled birds and tar balls came ashore at Kauai's Barking Sands, Polihale, Nukoli, Fujii, and Kipu Kai beaches in September 1998. The U.S. Coast Guard determined through chemical analysis, that the oil was from a Tesoro hose failure between the Barbers Point shore at the oil/chemical tanker OVERSEAS NEW YORK.

Exxon Houston spilled about 117,000 gallons of oil in March, 1989, threatening beaches on the island of Oahu. Exxon sought to shift damages. Exxon lost in district court, at the Ninth Circuit in 1995, and before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.
Another Tesoro Leak at Barber`s Point occurred in 2001 involving the oil/chemical tanker OVERSEAS CHICAGO.

While in route from Barbers Point to Ulsan, South Korea, the U.S. tank vessel SS OMI YUKON suffered major explosions and fires in the starboard fuel oil storage tanks and engine room. 

The Coast Guard determined that the 1986 accident had two causes: “contamination of the vessel's bunkers with flush oil during bunkering through a subsea pipeline and the absence of a flame screen in the after starboard fuel oil tank vent.

The Hawaiian Patriot was carrying 99,000 of oil from Indonesia to Honolulu. During February 23-24, 1977, the tanker leaked 50,000 tons of oil, caught fire, exploded, burned for hours, and then sank. The oil plume occurred 300 miles west of Hawaii and moved away from the islands. By contrast the Exxon Valdez had only 35,000 tons of oil (11 million gallons or 257,000 barrels).

AES Coal Plant, Campbell Industrial Park


HC&S burned bagasse to generate power for its needs. HC&S wanted to sell surplus power to MECO but MECO needed steady output (firm power). So HC&S added 40,000 tons of coal per year to their bagasse, and sold electricity to MECO as “renewable energy.”

Cane burning and ccoal-bagasse air pollution impacted Maui communities. 

Puna Geothermal Ventures


Tropical Storm Iselle devastated Puna on the night of Thursday, August 7, 2014.

Puna Pono Alliance described the chain of events.

Puna Geothermal Ventures (PGV) and Hawaii Electric Light Company (HELCO) made a commercial decision to keep PGV operating during Tropical Storm Iselle.

It was plainly foreseeable that the storm would damage trees and HELCO transmission lines, as it did, and that PGV would need to shut down on an emergency basis, as it did, and that complications of the storm situation would interfere with any response to the upset condition, as they did.

In fact, electric service was seriously disrupted around much of the Island as storm damage brought down trees and branches and disrupted utility infrastructure on a wide scale. Even ordinary rain storms have caused such damage on a smaller scale.

Civil Defense gave an alert for community members to evacuate if they felt symptoms from PGV's hydrogen sulfide release and dispatched the hazardous materials response team to PGV.

Storm damage to trees and utility lines made the roads dangerous and impassable for the attempted HazMat response, and they turned back before reaching the site. The same conditions made it dangerous and impossible for residents feeling symptoms from PGV's H2S release to evacuate from their homes.

The County but not the State reacted to community concerns and passed geothermal-based health-related ordinances. The 2016 State Legislature proposed stripping the county`s ability to enact health ordinances related to geothermal emissions.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Birth of Life of the Land

By Henry Curtis

In the spring of 1995 the Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran three Special Sections over a three week period covering four decades of Hawaii. 

In the March 14, 1995 Special Section the paper wrote an article, “Key leaders left mark on the state during Hawaii’s growth years.”

The effect a person can have on a place is immeasurable. Here are the 10 people or organizations who, from 1965 to 1975, helped make Hawaii what it is today.”

Those honorable mentioned but not making the list were such notables as Henry Kaiser, Frank Fasi, William S. Richardson court, Myron B. Thompson, Robert Oshiro and George Ariyoshi.

Their list of key players contained 6 individuals -- John Burns, Tom Gill, George Helm, Dan Inouye, Patsy Mink and Ah Quon McElrath; and 4 organizations -- Land Use Commission, Bishop Estate, Unions and Life of the Land.

Life of the Land was founded in February 1970 and named in September 1970. 

Life of the Land made the top ten list even though the organization existed for less than half of the 1965-75 decade.

Life of the Land burst onto the scene in February 1970, two months before the first Earth Day, by a group of young mothers who were appalled that raw sewage was being dumped in the ocean. 

They went down to Waikiki beach with brochures that asked: Do you know what you are swimming in?

There were no waste water treatment facilities in Hawai`i at that time. This direct action led to the first sewage treatment plant at Sand Island.

Then men joined the organization. They needed a name, a structure, and leaders. The two final names considered were Life of the Land and the Mad Marching Mothers of Manoa.

This was the era of Tony Hodges, Gavin Daws (co-author of Land and Power in Hawai`i) and Sophie Ann Aoki (daughter of Rev. Mitsuo Aoki).

The President's Water Pollution Control Advisory Board Report, Honolulu, Hawaii June 7-10, 1971: “On June 7, the Board made an inspection tour of the Island of Oahu including Pearl Harbor. Pollution problems were viewed from the lookouts at Punchbowl and Nuuanu Pali, and from two Marine Corps heliocopters [sic].

The Board viewed raw sewage being discharged from Honolulu's 50 million-gallon-per-day outfall off Sand Island, a short distance from the Honolulu shoreline and the beaches of Waikiki; sediment and soil erosion problems in Kaneohe Bay; and oil and sewage mixing with silt in Pearl Harbor.”

“On June 8, the Board traveled by plane to Hilo ...The primary pollution problem emanating from the sugar industry is the dumping of mud, silt and cane trash from sugar cane washing operations into the ocean. This is affecting beaches, streams, fishing grounds and coral reefs throughout the State.”

“Mr. Tony Hodges, President, Life of the Land ...stated that the State of Hawaii has not enforced, is not enforcing, and will not enforce the water quality standards, and the standards will not be enforced until the Federal Government intervenes. ...Give citizens the right to sue officials to compel enforcement of anti-pollution laws.”

Life of the Land was cited in newspapers and magazines throughout the country.

Life of the Land is waging a vigorous fight against polluters in and out of court.” Stewart Udall. 1970. (Secretary of the Interior (1961-1969) under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson)

Newsweek (March 1, 1971): “Life of the Land filed a flurry of lawsuits aimed at pressuring the state to enforce its pollution laws.”

President Richard Nixon signed into law the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which required a federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for projects involving the federal government in January 1970.

Hawai`i adopted the EIS process by a Governor’s Executive Order in 1973 and then by law in 1974. At that time, all of Hawaii’s lawyers were educated abroad in U.S. law schools.

The UH Law School opened its doors in the fall of 1973. The first set of second year Hawai`i-trained law students became law interns in the summer of 1975. The first class graduated in the spring of 1976.

In 1971 Life of the Land started its Environmental Research and Law Program (ERLP).

Supplementing the half-dozen plus legal team of attorneys were law interns (usually law students who have completed 2 of their 3 years at law school). The ERLP started with 9 law interns in the summer of 1971.

In 1972 eighty law students applied and nineteen law interns were accepted.  

Interns had to pay their own way to Hawai`i.

The ERLP was Hawaii’s first public interest law firm. The ERLP attorneys represented several Hawaiian, community, and non-profit organizations in legal issues.

The ERLP legal team was larger than either EarthJustice’s or Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation s today.

Air and water pollution were much more extensive in the 1960s that it is today. Part of the pollution came from leaded gas.

Wall Street Journal (April 5, 1972. Lead story, p A1): “When the southerly kona winds blow onto shore trapping auto exhaust, the mountains of this island of Oahu disappear in the haze, and this city, famed for its tropical splendor, is blanketed in yellow smog. The Pacific Ocean nearby isn’t so pretty either.

Only 3,500 feet from shore and less than four miles from Waikiki Beach, 55 million gallons of raw sewage churn into the sea daily, discoloring and polluting the water. ...

Lawsuits and lobbying efforts by Life of the Land are forcing the state health department and the administration of Gov. John Burns to devote increasing time to pollution matters.”

Life of the Land intervened in the 1971 HECO Rate Case and won it on appeal to the Hawaii Supreme Court. Life of the Land sued the Navy over the bombing of Kaho`olawe and got the first military EIS in the nation. Life of the Land argued an EIS case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Hawaii Business News (Cover Story, November 1973): “Ecology itself has rapidly become a national issue, about as hard to oppose as motherhood or the flag. But while most people agree that something must be done about guarding the nation’s environment, few agree on priorities or even on a definition of the problems.

Because ecology has no clear manifesto, it has spawned all sorts of groups and movements. Often this splintering has made much of the protest ineffective.

Not so in the case of Life of the Land, which in Hawaii has provided a focal point for a widely diverse group of characters and forces – a polarizing force on the local scene that is disrupting long established political, economic and social alignments.

With its bold, sometimes impertinently aggressive tactics LOL has displayed a persistent knack of hitting the State’s governmental and business establishment where it hurts – in the pocketbook. ...

The remarkable thing about Life of the Land is the fact that it has succeeded as well as it has against such a broad and potent array of opposition.”

Much of Hawai`i’s land use case law was written as a result of Life of the Land’s cases.

Star-Bulletin Editorial (May 13, 1975): “Useful Gadfly. ...Life of the Land fills a near-vacuum in the State in terms of a citizens’ lobby to challenge the establishment’s policy decisions ...particularly in the all-important areas of land use and environmental protect."

In 1976 Tony Hodges left the organization. The UH Law School graduated its first class.

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The Bombing of Kaho`olawe

By Henry Curtis

The day after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 the Navy declared martial law on Kaho`olawe. Residents were forced to leave. 

The Navy used Kaho‘olawe as a target ranch from 1941 through 1990. The Navy assaulted the island with napalm, mock atomic warheads, bombs and rockets.

From 1942-1943, American submarine commanders tested torpedoes by firing them at the shoreline cliffs at Kanapou. Additional torpedoes were test-fired from 1943 to the 1960’s,” according to the Parsons-UXB Joint Venture Final Summary (2004). 

The Report noted that the "’Sailor Hat’ tests were conducted on Kaho`olawe. Three tests of 500 tons of TNT each were detonated to simulate the blast effects of nuclear weapons on shipboard weapon systems.”

Many of the unexploded warheads targeted for land landed in the ocean.

In 1969 protests ensued when a five-hundred-pound bomb was found over seven miles across the channel on Maui pasture land leased to then Maui Mayor Elmer Carvalho.

Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969.  Richard Nixon signed the law in January 1970. NEPA required federal Environmental Impact Statements for projects involving federal land or money. It was not clear whether NEPA applied to the military.

In 1970 University of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology researchers suggested that Kahoolawe be commercialized with a  thermonuclear power plant and aquaculture.

On July 29, 1971 Life of the Land and Maui Mayor Carvalho sued to stop the bombing. They sought an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the navy's use of the island. The suit named Secretary of the Defense Laird, Secretary of the Navy Chafee and Rear Admiral Hayward.

Peter MacDonald wrote Fixed in Time: A Brief History of Kahoolawe. "By November 1971, the Department of Defense filed a statement which gave facts and figures relative to the total annual bomb tonnages dropped on Kahoolawe since 1967. Also, a short discussion was given concerning the island's indigenous plants. … Federal Judge C. Nils Tavares ruled that the Navy and the Department of Defense had until January 20, 1972 to submit more information."

The Navy released a hastily prepared EIS in 1972.

Mansel G. Blackford has written articles on Kaho`olawe, including “Environmental Justice, Native Rights, Tourism, and Opposition to Military Control: The Case of Kaho'olawe” (2004):

“Navy officials prepared an environmental impact statement in early 1972 in response to the lawsuit. The statement admitted that shelling and bombing hurt Kaho'olawe but highlighted the perceived "beneficial environmental effects of military use," ranging from the pulverization of the island's soil, which made it amenable to the growth of vegetation, to the accumulation of rain runoff in bomb craters. 

Navy representatives argued that "the mineral content per acre of the target sites, from [shell and bomb] fragmentations, might someday prove economically worthwhile from the standpoint of salvage and retrieval of some of the metallic alloy material involved." 

"Unexploded dud ordnance" did constitute "a major problem," but one "without noticeably adverse effect on the human population spread within the Hawaiian archipelago." 

In short, according to the navy, "thirty years of use of the island as a target site" had "slightly improved the balance of the island's ecosystems."

In May 1972, the Navy submitted a report with Federal Judge C. Nils Tavares. "The environmental effect of weapon exercises upon the ecology or ecological system of other nearby islands of the Hawaiian archipelago will remain negligible." 

Judge Tavares dismissed the suit on May 16, 1972.

Kanaka Maoli Kahu Charles ("Uncle Charlie") Kauluwehi Maxwell, Sr. and others founded the Protect Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana (PKO) in 1974-75 and occupied the island in 1976 during America's Bicentennial.

The nine initial occupiers of Kaho‘olawe were Dr. Emmet Aluli, Kimo Aluli, George Helm, Ian Lind, Ellen Miles, Stephen Morse, Kawaipuna Prejan, Walter Ritte Jr., and Karla Villalba.

During efforts to reclaim the island, Kimo Mitchell and George Helm disappeared at sea off Kaho'olawe in 1977.

In 1977 "the PKO won a court victory when federal judge Richard Wong ruled that the navy violated both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and an executive order that required the preservation of historic sites."

Archeological studies conducted by the navy in 1976-80 found 544 archaeological sites dating from 100 A.D. These sites included shrines, quarries, and petroglyphs. 

The government approved funding to start cleaning up the island in 1993 and the following year Kaho'olawe was conveyed back to the State of Hawai'i to be managed by the Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC).

In 1993, Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye secured funding for cleaning up the island.
While visiting the Senator in his office, Senator Inouye asked me to guess how many hearings were required to securing the funding. I said I didn’t know. The Senator’s answer was “zero.” He made one phone call.

Congress allocated $400 million toward cleanup. The Hawaiian Legislature established the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve (the island with a two-mile ocean boundary) and established the Kaho`olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) to manage it.

The Parsons-UXB Joint Venture Final Summary (2004) noted that “the detection of subsurface ordnance on Kaho’olawe was complicated by the high (and varying) concentrations of iron in Kaho`olawe’s basaltic rock and soil. 

Traditional magnetometer metal detectors had to be discarded in favor of electromagnetic detectors (EM). EM detectors locate ordnance by reading the magnetic field generated by electrical currents passing through buried metals.”

“Subsurface clearance operations consisted of a geophysical detection to located possible subsurface UXO and an UXO excavation to uncover and evaluate these anomalies.”

 Only a portion of the land and none of the water has been cleared of ordinances. Most of the land that has been cleared had only its surface cleared. Continued erosion has allowed buried active warheads to surface.

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The Right to Sue

By Henry Curtis

The modern air conditioner was developed in the early 1800s but became popular in the 1950s and 1960s.

During the 1950s and 1960s consumers were urged to increase their use of electricity. 

Live Better Electrically (LBE) was launched in March 1956. The industry-wide campaign was supported by 180 electrical manufacturers and 300 electric utilities.

The Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications and Computation has posted a historical document with historical advertisements.

 “The campaign got then-actor Ronald Reagan, the popular host of ‘General Electric Theater,’ to take his television audience on a series of tours of his and wife Nancy's all-electric Pacific Palisades home.”

“In October 1957, LBE launched the "Medallion Homes" campaign, which sought to sell 20,000 all-electric homes nationwide by 1958, 100,000 by 1960 and 970,000 by 1970.”

The electric industry took off. Profits soared. Rates were low. Regulators did little.

 The Gas Company (GASCO) and Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) filed requests with the Hawai`i Public Utilities Commission to have ratepayers finance their advertising campaigns encouraging people to use more electricity.

The Commission approved these requests in 1970 and 1972, respectively.

Life of the Land had filed a Motion to Intervene in the HECO case. The intervention was denied but Life of the Land was permitted to ask questions through the Commission staff. This pre-dated the separation of the Commission and the Consumer Advocate.

Life of the Land convinced the staff that requiring ratepayers to pay for advertisement to promote electricity over gas was a bad idea. But the Commission approved it.

Life of the Land appealed. The Commission challenged the right of Life of the Land to appeal arguing that since they were not a party in the proceedings they had no right to appeal.

Justice Benjamin Menor wrote the unanimous Hawaii Supreme Court reversing the Commission on the use of promotional advertisement:

The appellants are users of electrical energy, and two members of appellant Life of the Land, in opposing the rate increase, testified that they would be paying the higher utility rates. A ratepayer who is compelled to pay higher utility rates by agency action is a person specially, personally and adversely affected. 

The fact that he shares this additional burden with all other users does not disentitle him from challenging the results. ...

The PUC staff, however, failed to appeal the decision of the PUC with regard to the rate increase. The practical effect of denying the appellants standing here would be to silence the voice of all those who would speak in the public interest, a duty that normally resides with the PUC staff.

We hold, therefore, that where the appellants have been "aggrieved" by the action of the PUC, and where they were involved as "participants" during the agency hearings, and where the PUC staff (the agency through which they participated at the hearings) has failed to appeal the decision of the PUC, the appellants may challenge the order of the PUC in this court. We shall thus consider their appeal. ...

The appellants contend that the PUC's decision to permit HECO to include promotional expenditures in its budget for ratemaking purposes was arbitrary and unreasonable, and contrary to the best interests of the general public. The PUC staff found itself in complete agreement with the appellants on this issue ...The commission, however, approved ...

The programs due to competitive fuels are designed to attract new customers and, where possible, capture customers and usage from the Honolulu Gas Company [hereinafter GASCO], while defending against similar efforts on the part of GASCO, the electric company's sole competitor in this area. They consist mainly of allowances of payments to owners and developers who build all-electric homes and apartments and advertise them for sale as such. ...

The disturbing aspect of the PUC decision to allow expenditures for these programs is the rationale behind it. GASCO had been granted an allowance for similar promotional expenditures earlier. See Decision and Order No. 2621 (PUC of Hawaii, Aug. 31, 1970).

GASCO, in making its request, had argued that the expenses were necessary to attract customers away from Hawaiian Electric. HECO, in its present application for a rate increase, pointed to the GASCO allowance as justification for its own request. It seems apparent from the record that the PUC's decision was based on this particular argument of HECO.

The PUC has consistently failed to meet squarely the issue of the reasonableness of competitive advertising expenditures. In late 1963, the PUC ordered the opening of Docket No. 1581 for the avowed purpose of inquiring into the promotional practices of the utilities ...

On April 24, 1964, the commission issued its Order No. 1417, requiring the utilities to show cause why certain of their promotional practices should not be discontinued. To date no concrete action aimed at a final resolution of the problem has been taken by the commission. 

On the contrary, it has recently closed Docket No. 1581, thereby assuring the continuance of its practice of passing upon allowances for promotional expenditures on a case-by-case basis, and lending unwarranted validity to the circular arguments of HECO and GASCO.

One of the primary factors the PUC must take into consideration when it fixes rates is fairness to the ratepayer. Obviously, the particular type of advertising competition involved here does not benefit the ratepayer. ...

There are alternative, viable means to promote sound competition among utilities, particularly between two utility companies (HECO and GASCO) which have already established themselves in Hawaii's marketplace. Efficiency of management, technological improvements, superiority of service, and economy of costs should more properly provide the bases for any competition between them.

By basing its decision purely on the previous grant of similar expenditures to a competing utility, the PUC has failed to give adequate consideration to the interests of the ratepayer and has thereby abused its discretion. ...

Moreover, since the appliances being promoted by HECO are those generally in use during peak-load periods, it is difficult to see how HECO can argue that these expenses encourage the increase of off-peak utility loads. ...

In the face of dwindling oil supplies and spiralling costs, promotional practices which are wasteful or which only serve to fuel the energy crisis should be viewed by a regulatory agency with extreme caution.”

The Honolulu Star Bulletin Editorial (Right to Sue, May 9, 1975): “’Right-to-sue’ has always been a red flag in the environmental area. Environmentalists rally round. They see it as one of their most effective tools for stopping environmental abuse.

The Establishment cringes at its potential for harassment, delays of projects, extra costs.

As a result of a unanimous State Supreme Court decision this week, the fight may largely be settled.

A wide right to sue is now law, the Supreme Court has held. The court placed a broad interpretation on the right-to-sue privileges spelled out in the Hawaii Administrative Procedure Act ...It held that two Life of the Land officers were aggrieved parties in a Hawaiian Electric rate setting case because their bi-monthly electric bills are affected.”

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