PROPOSED FEDERAL RULE WOULD ENDANGER CLEAN ENERGY PROJECTS IN HAWAII
News Release from Office of Rep Cynthia Thielen
Honolulu December 1, 2011– Hawai‘i State Representative Cynthia Thielen (R, 50th District: Kailua, Kaneohe Bay) submitted the following letter today to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expressing her strong opposition to a proposed critical habitat rule that would endanger clean energy projects in Hawaii:
Mr. Michael Tosatto, Regional Administrator
U.S. Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Office
1601 Kapiolani Blvd. Suite 1110, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814-4700
Dear Mr. Tosatto:
Regarding Rule # 064B-BA81
I am writing to voice my strong opposition to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency's (NOAA) proposed rule to designate the shorelines and waters surrounding all of the main Hawaiian Islands as a critical habitat for the Hawaiian monk seals. I am also informing you that I intend to introduce legislation in the 2012 Hawaii legislative session that will instruct the State of Hawaii, including the Department of Land and Natural Resources, to officially oppose the NOAA rulemaking action.
Recently, members of the NOAA staff testified at a Legislative briefing about the proposed rule. They displayed maps showing nearly the entire windward coastline of Oahu as part of the habitat. I was stunned when these representatives admitted they had not talked to the Clean Energy Division in the State Department of Economic Development and Tourism. They also seemed to be oblivious to the number of clean energy projects planned or underway in Hawaii. These include ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), deep sea air conditioning, and wave energy programs.
I am opposing this rule, because your agency's extensive and overly aggressive rulemaking effort will effectively kill ocean-based clean energy initiatives in Hawaii. As an environmental attorney who has worked for decades as a champion of a clean and sustainable environment, I know first-hand the impact that can occur. In the 1980’s, I successfully raised claims under the Endangered Species Act, temporarily stopping the federally-funded H-3 project.
Hawaii is the most oil dependent State in the United States. We send an estimated $7 billion out of state every year to purchase petroleum to fuel our islands. The unimpeded development of clean energy projects, including ocean-based projects, is vital to breaking our oil dependence.
My staff has examined the documentation prepared by NOAA for the critical habitat designation. NOAA's own economic report admits that your agency has insufficient data to be able to determine the economic impacts of the federal critical habitat proposal on clean energy programs. The report also indicates there is insufficient data to estimate the effect on many other activities including harbors modernization, oil spill clean ups, and beach replenishment and restoration projects. I find it inappropriate that your agency would proceed when these impacts are, by your own admission, unknown.
I am proud of my record of environmental activism. I understand the need to protect and encourage the re-propagation of Hawaiian monk seals. However, your own data seems to indicate that the monk seals are doing better where the critical habitat designation does not exist.
I urge you to re-weigh the significant and long-term impacts of placing all of the main Hawaiian Islands under a critical habitat designation. Doing this will endanger Hawaii's critical habitat for clean and renewable energy and continue to tie us to an unsustainable and environmentally dangerous dependence on oil.
"I urge all concerned citizens, particularly those involved in clean and renewable energy programs, to voice their concerns to Federal officials prior to the January 6, 2012 public comment deadline." Rep. Cynthia Thielen stated. "Hawaii cannot let federal staff impede our efforts in wave energy, ocean thermal energy conversion, seawater air conditioning, and related ocean-based energy projects. It is possible to protect monk seals in a responsible and thoughtful manner, but the proposed NOAA rule is too broad and heavy-handed."
Related: Lingle calls for Delay in Federal Grab for Control of Hawaii Shorelines