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LETTERS for the January 16 issue

By Staff | Jan 16, 2020

The Sierra Club details priorities for 2020

There is a ring to 2020 that inspires hope. A fresh new year, a fresh new decade, a fresh new start. This year holds so much potential for meaningful change, and there are many things to look forward to this year. Your support in 2020 will help drive our local work focused on:

Climate justice for all – We are continuing in our pursuit of a comfortable, livable planet with a stable climate and equitable society. Everyone has the right to a clean and livable environment, which should not come at the expense of the health and safety of Hawaii’s people and culture. Honolulu is on their way to suing the fossil fuel industry, Maui is in queue, and hopefully the other counties and the state will soon follow suit. Other big actions are also being taken at the county level to make our communities more sustainable. At the same time, our Malama Tree Crew and volunteers are planting and maintaining trees to sequester carbon already in the atmosphere.

Strong policies and people for the environment – The 2020 Hawaii Legislative Session opens on Jan. 15. We are focusing in on all things climate -mitigation, adaptation, funding and more. 2020 is also a big election year from presidential all the way down to county councils. Our climate needs people in office at all levels that will advocate for its future, and this is a big chance to get new faces in our local governments.

Defending the rights of nature – We have lots of HUGE pending litigation coming up this year to defend Hawaii’s precious resources:

East Maui: We are suing to challenge the State Board of Land and Natural Resource’s approval of temporary permits to divert water for yet another year. We want BLNR to fulfill its legal obligation of ensuring the public’s natural resources are well protected. Trial is set in our lawsuit for May.

AES: We are contesting the Department of Health’s practice of allowing the “sharing” of greenhouse gas emissions. By state law, power plants in Hawaii are required to decrease their emissions by 16 percent by 2020. Instead of investing in the reduction of emissions and/or ramping down their dirty production, the AES Hawaii coal plant is banking on the success of other power plants and asking to use up other facilities’ emission quotas. We are currently awaiting a decision.

Red Hill: We are suing the Hawaii Department of Health to ensure they fulfill their obligation to protect Oahu’s groundwater from the Navy’s aging fuel tanks at Red Hill. A recent study shows that there is a 27.6 percent chance that the Red Hill tanks will leak 30,000 gallons of fuel or more every year, and that 6,000 gallons of fuel already leaks annually. The department should not, in good faith, permit the tanks to operate while knowing the tanks pose a huge risk to the health of Oahu’s residents and environment. Trial is not set yet but is expected in the fall.

With your continued help, we’ll be able to make huge strides toward a clean, equitable future for our islands.

MARTI TOWNSEND, Director, Sierra Club of Hawaii


Save the Sugar Cane Train

For years on Maui, whenever he was asked, Santa could always say, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Sugar Cane Train.”

Sadly, that may have come to an end with the reported demise of the “Holiday Express,” a.k.a. “Sugar Cane Train.”

As delightful and family-oriented as the train rides have been, they also represent one of the last reminders of a different era and a different time on Maui.

Like the Lahaina smokestack, the train is the only remaining physical manifestation of a time when a complete railroad network crisscrossed the island in the days of the sugar plantations.

The train deserves to be saved and preserved as a working model of a time quickly becoming a part of our past.

I respectfully urge the corporate owners of the train’s lease to work with the mayor and the council to save the train. Let’s not let this important part of Maui silently fade away.



Thanks to Trump, Iran has the upper hand

The assassination of General Soleimani is proving to be a resounding success for Iran. It accomplished what the ayatollah could not: common ground between Iran and Iraq; Iraq’s invitation to the U.S. military to leave the country; an end to Iranian popular protests against the regime’s economic policies, and instead broad support for retaliation against the U.S. air strike; and further division in Washington over Trump’s Middle East policy, including renewed calls for restraining him from attacking Iran.

So when you think about it, Iran has the upper hand. Before Iran sent missiles over an Iraqi base that housed U.S. soldiers, I thought that Iran’s leaders would have every reason to be patient and not put retaliation against the U.S. into play too soon.

In fact, its better strategy would be to let developments evolve – let the Iraqi government keep up the pressure on U.S. troop withdrawal, let popular anti-American anger in Iran continue to simmer, let the Europeans show their upset over how Trump’s attack has put their troops in danger, and let the Democrats in Congress continue to make life miserable for Trump and weaken his popular base.

Now, fortunately, it appears that there were no casualties in Iran’s reprisal, probably by design, and therefore no pretext for a further U.S. attack. The opportunity to deescalate is before Trump.

His speech on Jan. 8 did not raise new threats, but neither did it offer Iran an incentive to move relations out of the danger zone. Just more sanctions, lies about Obama’s Iran policy, and boasts about US military power, oil independence, and of course Trump’s exceptional foreign policy leadership.

The U.S. and Iran thus remain at an impasse – still with no active diplomatic channel to avoid either another round of tit-for-tat or a crisis over Iran’s nuclear plans.

Absent anything resembling a diplomatic strategy, Iran is free to decide its next move: Feed on the successes Trump has delivered to the ayatollah, or test Trump’s boasts again.

MEL GURTOV, PeaceVoice