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More Taxes and Fewer Lanes: Green, DoT, Eco-Lawyers 'Sue and Settle' Scheme
By News Release @ 4:33 AM :: 1032 Views :: Energy, Environment, Taxes

HISTORIC AGREEMENT SETTLES NAVAHINE CLIMATE LITIGATION

Transportation Department Commits to Bold Action to Achieve 2045 Zero Emission Goals

News release from Office of the Governor, June 20, 2024 (With reality-inducing notes in parenthesis.)

HONOLULU  ̶  Governor Josh Green, M.D., today joined youth plaintiffs in announcing the resolution of the Navahine v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation constitutional climate case. The settlement agreement, which the court has approved, acknowledges the constitutional rights of Hawaiʻi’s youth to a life-sustaining climate and confirms the commitment by HDOT to plan and implement transformative changes of Hawaiʻi’s transportation system to achieve the state’s goal of net-negative emissions by 2045.

“The passion demonstrated by these young people in advocating for a healthy, sustainable future for their generation and those to come, is laudable,” said Governor  Green. “This settlement informs how we as a state can best move forward to achieve life-sustaining goals and further, we can surely expect to see these and other youth in Hawaiʻi continue to step up to build the type of future they desire.”

Navahine v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation is the world’s first youth-led constitutional climate case seeking to address climate pollution from the transportation sector. Thirteen youth from across the Hawaiian Islands brought the case in June 2022, asserting their rights to a safe and healthy climate and asking the Hawaiʻi state government to take action to meet the climate emergency and enable Hawaiʻi’s paradigm shift to a climate-safe, zero-emissions transportation system. Many of the Navahine plaintiffs are Native Hawaiian youth who are already experiencing climate change harms to their well-being and their ability to perpetuate cultural practices.

(IQ Test: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.")

The settlement of Navahine is also the first settlement agreement of its kind, in which state government entities have decided to work with youth plaintiffs to address concerns regarding constitutional issues arising from climate change, and commit to implementing specific plans and programs designed to decarbonize a state transportation system and reduce greenhouse gas pollution and fossil fuel dependence. In this case, Director of Transportation Ed Sniffen took unprecedented leadership to negotiate a resolution and embrace the government’s kuleana (responsibility) to lead the way on bold and broad climate action.

DoT Leadership: Naming Names: Airports Division Ran Late-Night Parties Where Hawaii Politicians Raked In Money

“Climate change is indisputable,” said Sniffen. “Burying our heads in the sand and making it the next generation’s problem is not pono. In our agreement with Our Children’s Trust and Earthjustice we’re committing to develop and use greenhouse gas emission measurements and reductions in vehicle miles traveled when we develop ground transportation projects and look for ways to translate that to our Airports and Harbors projects.”

(TRANSLATIONS: 'Reduce vehicle miles' = Raise taxes.  'Look for' = Do nothing about airplanes spewing jet exhaust.)

All parties to the agreement herald a collaborative path forward. “Today’s settlement shows that the state and HDOT are truly committed to transformative action to reduce our transportation emissions before it’s too late. This new partnership puts climate action in the fast lane towards a more just and equitable future,” said Leinā‘ala Ley, an attorney with Earthjustice and co-counsel representing Navahine and her 12 fellow youth plaintiffs.

Of the settlement agreement, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Navahine F., said, “I am so proud of all the hard work to get us to this historic moment. We got what we came for, and we got it faster than we expected. Mai kuhihewa young people have the power to make a difference for their futures,” she said.

(REALITY: They are more likely to move to Las Vegas because of this settlement.)

Plaintiff Rylee Brooke K. added, “Being heard and moving forward in unity with the state to combat climate change is incredibly gratifying, and empowering. This partnership marks a pivotal step towards preserving Hawaiʻi for future generations — one that will have a ripple effect on the world. I hope our case inspires youth to always use their voices to hold leaders accountable for the future they will inherit.”

Hawai‘i State Environmental Court Judge John Tonaki formally accepted the settlement this morning, which means the trial that was scheduled to begin on Monday will not proceed.

(CLUE: It was never intended to proceed.  This 'sue and settle' scheme is designed to impose policy bypassing the courts and the democratic process.)

“Our courts are essential guardians of young peoples’ constitutional rights and empowered to protect the planet, but they rely on our collective engagement. The thirteen youth Plaintiffs in Navahine v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation activated the courts and achieved the first Settlement Agreement in a constitutional climate case, paving the way for systemic decarbonization of transportation. This historic Agreement offers a holistic roadmap for states and countries to follow around the world,” said Andrea Rodgers, deputy director for U.S. Strategy at Our Children’s Trust and co-counsel for the Navahine plaintiffs.

(IQ Test: Can you find even one emissions free car in Hawaii?)

The agreement sets forth a framework that further confirms Hawaiʻi’s position as one of the leading states in the nation in moving from a transportation system that depends on fossil fuels to a cleaner, and safer system that supports a transition to vehicles that run on clean electricity or alternative fuels and gives people more choices to get around by walking, cycling/scootering, and riding public transit. This framework offers an exemplary and replicable model for decarbonizing transportation systems around the U.S., and the world.

(TRANSLATION: Higher taxes, fewer lanes.)

The agreement also includes numerous provisions for immediate and ongoing action steps by HDOT. These include, for example: 

  • Establishing a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan within one year of the agreement, laying the foundation and roadmap to decarbonize Hawaiʻi’s transportation system within the next 20 years.
  • Creating a lead unit and responsible positions within HDOT to coordinate the mission of GHG reduction throughout the agency; oversee climate change mitigation and adaptation for the highways program; and ensure implementation of the Complete Streets policy of building and upgrading public highways for all users, ages, and abilities.
  • Establishing a volunteer youth council to advise on HDOT mitigation and adaptation commitments in the years to come.
  • Improving the state transportation infrastructure budgeting process to prioritize reduction of GHG and vehicles miles traveled (VMT) and transparently analyze and disclose the GHG and VMT impacts of each project and the overall program.
  • Making immediate, ambitious investments in clean transportation infrastructure, including completing the pedestrian, bicycle, and transit networks in five years, and dedicating a minimum of $40 million to expanding the public electric vehicle charging network by 2030.

(CLUE: E-cars in Hawaii are NOT emissions free.  Three Words: 'Moving the Smokestack'.)

The parties agreed the court will maintain continuing jurisdiction over their agreement for purposes of resolving any disputes relating to the implementation of the agreement.

Photos from todayʻs event, courtesy Office of the Governor, will be uploaded here; a replay of the news conference is available here.

  *   *   *   *   *

Historic Agreement Settles Hawaiʻi Youth-Led Constitutional Climate Complaint

Victory—Transportation Department commits to bold action to achieve 2045 zero emission goals

PDF:  LEGAL DOCUMENT

News Release from Earth Justice, June 20, 2024

HONOLULU, HAWAIʻI — Today, youth plaintiffs in the Navahine v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation constitutional climate complaint joined Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation (HDOT) Director Edwin Sniffen and Governor Josh Green to announce and celebrate a groundbreaking agreement resolving the case. The settlement agreement, which the court has approved, recognizes children’s constitutional rights to a life-sustaining climate and mobilizes HDOT to plan and implement transformative changes of Hawaiʻi’s transportation system to achieve the State’s legally established goal of net-negative emissions by 2045.

Navahine v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation is the world’s first youth-led constitutional climate case addressing climate pollution from the transportation sector. Thirteen youth from across the Hawaiian Islands brought the case in June 2022, asserting their rights to a safe and healthy climate and asking the Hawaiʻi state government to take necessary actions to meet the climate emergency and enable Hawaiʻi’s paradigm shift to a climate-safe, zero emissions transportation system. Many of the Navahine plaintiffs are Native Hawaiian youth who are already experiencing climate change harms like sea level rise, drought, floods, and fires, which have threatened their lives and their ability to perpetuate cultural practices such as kalo farming, fishing, and gathering.

The settlement of Navahine is also an historic first — the first settlement agreement of its kind, in which government defendants have decided to resolve a constitutional climate case in partnership with youth plaintiffs, committing to comprehensive changes and the systemic decarbonization of a state transportation system to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and fossil fuel dependence. In this case, HDOT’s Director Edwin Sniffen took unprecedented leadership to negotiate a resolution and embrace the government’s kuleana (responsibility) to lead the way on bold and broad climate action.

The agreement sets forth a framework that positions Hawaiʻi among the leading states in the nation in moving from the legacy 20th-century transportation system that depends on costly imported fossil fuels, to a cleaner, cheaper, and safer system that supports converting to vehicles that run on clean electricity and gives people more choices to get around by walking, cycling/scootering, and riding public transit. This framework offers an exemplary and replicable model for decarbonizing transportation systems around the U.S., and the world.

The agreement recognizes climate rights and responsibilities, including the understanding that the state transportation system must be established and operated to “preserve, protect, and maintain Hawaiʻi’s public trust resources and all Hawaiʻi citizens’ right to a clean and healthful environment,” and that HDOT will “take any actions necessary” to achieve zero emissions across all transportation modes within the state, including ground, sea, and air and interisland air transportation.

The agreement also includes numerous provisions for immediate and ongoing action steps by HDOT. These include, for example:

  • Establishing a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan within one year of the agreement, laying the foundation and roadmap to decarbonize Hawaiʻi’s transportation system within the next 20 years.
  • Creating a lead unit and responsible positions within HDOT to coordinate the mission of GHG reduction throughout the agency; oversee climate change mitigation and adaptation for the highways program; and ensure implementation of the Complete Streets policy of building and upgrading public highways for all users, ages, and abilities.
  • Establishing a volunteer youth council to advise on HDOT’s mitigation and adaptation commitments in the years to come.
  • Improving its transportation infrastructure budgeting process to prioritize reduction of GHG and vehicles miles traveled (VMT) and transparently analyze and disclose the GHG and VMT impacts of each project and the overall program.
  • Making immediate, ambitious investments in clean transportation infrastructure, including completing the pedestrian, bicycle, and transit networks in 5 years, and dedicating a minimum of $40 million to expanding the public electric vehicle charging network by 2030.

The parties agreed the court will maintain continuing jurisdiction over their agreement to ensure implementation.

Statements from all parties:

“I am so proud of all the hard work to get us to this historic moment. We got what we came for, and we got it faster than we expected. Mai kuhihewa young people have the power to make a difference for their futures.”
– Navahine F., youth plaintiff

“Being heard and moving forward in unity with the State to combat climate change is incredibly gratifying, and empowering. This partnership marks a pivotal step towards preserving Hawaii for future generations–one that will have a ripple effect on the world. I hope our case inspires youth to always use their voices to hold leaders accountable for the future they will inherit.”
–Rylee Brooke K., youth plaintiff

“Hawai‘i’s young people raised their voices to protect our future here in the islands, and their voices were heard. Today’s settlement shows that the State and HDOT are committed to transformative action to reduce our transportation emissions before it’s too late. This new partnership puts climate action in the fast lane towards a more just and equitable future.”
– Leinā‘ala Ley, Senior Associate Attorney, Earthjustice

“The thirteen youth Plaintiffs in Navahine v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation have just achieved the first Settlement Agreement in a constitutional climate case, paving the way for systemic decarbonization of transportation. One of the most intractable barriers to combatting the climate crisis is now being addressed head-on, and this historic Agreement offers a holistic roadmap for states and countries to follow around the world.”
– Andrea Rogers, Deputy Director, U.S. Strategy, Our Children’s Trust, Co-Counsel for the Navahine plaintiffs

“Our courts are essential guardians of children’s constitutional rights and empowered to protect the planet, but they rely on our collective engagement. Navahine youth plaintiffs activated the courts and inspired true democracy in action—all three branches of government committing to work together to do what needs to be done according to best available science, to safeguard their futures. Young people across the country and around the world will follow in their footsteps, carrying the same values of care, defense, and love of the land to action.”
– Julia Olson, Founder and Chief Legal Counsel, Our Children’s Trust

  *   *   *   *   *

US House: Comer, Fallon Probe Secretive Sue-and-Settle Practices Between Special Interests and EPA - United States House Committee on Oversight and Accountability

BLOOMBERG: ‘Sue-and-Settle’ Tactics That Circumvent Law Set a Bad Precedent (bloomberglaw.com)

US CoC: Sue and Settle: Regulating Behind Closed Doors | U.S. Chamber of Commerce (uschamber.com)

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