LIHU‘E — The Sierra Club, Hawai‘i Chapter, announced Wednesday a campaign to repeal the state Public Lands Development Corporation. The state’s largest environmental grassroots organization, with more than 12,000 members and supporters, is encouraging state legislators to publicly commit to repealing PLDC.
The Sierra Club and partner organizations launched a new website Wednesday, www.GrandTheftAina.com, where residents are able to see which candidates support or oppose the repeal of the PLDC, a Sierra Club press release states.
“The legislative survey indicates the majority of candidates who were willing to publicly take a position on the PLDC, are in favor of repealing it at the upcoming session at the Legislature,” said Judy Dalton, a board member of Kaua‘i’s Sierra Club. “The website gives voters crucial information in making their choices and to reach out to all candidates to let their concerns be known.”
The website lists most of the candidates running or elected to the state Senate and the House of Representatives, and their position on repealing the PLDC.
“The Sierra Club and its members have gone to great lengths to work with the PLDC, including proposing ways to reasonably improve the draft administrative rules,” Hawai‘i’s Sierra Club Director Robert Harris said in the release.
“These suggestions have largely been ignored. With the PLDC’s recent efforts to exclude the public from commenting and the adoption of a toothless strategic plan, it appears our only alternative is to push for a repeal of the PLDC.”
PLDC was created last year after the state Legislature passed Senate Bill 1555, which Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into Act 55 on May 20, 2011. PLDC Executive Director Lloyd Haraguchi said on Aug. 31, during a public meeting on Kaua‘i, that the intent of creating PLDC was to generate additional revenues for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources by developing under-utilized or unused public lands.
PLDC has brought massive opposition in communities around the state since it began a series of public meetings in August to gather public input.
At PLDC’s public meeting on Kaua‘i Aug. 31, Dalton testified that some legislators who voted “yes” for Act 55, have realized “the ramifications of their earlier decision and are now eager to repeal it.”
One of the main concerns, among the public and county lawmakers across Hawai‘i, is that PLDC’s five board members are able to circumvent county zoning laws.
Many of those opposed the law, including the current head of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control, Gary Hooser, say state environmental laws will become ineffective with PLDC’s superpowers.
“Countless individuals and organizations have expressed concern about the law’s no-bid contract provisions, the slant towards developing public resources instead of conservation, and the creation of a semi-autonomous agency exempted from routine oversight of state and county government,” Wednesday’s Sierra Club press release states.
Harris said in the release that the organization is encouraging its members and supporters to reach out to candidates to express their concerns about PLDC. Each candidate or elected official on the new website has their contact info listed.
“We believe our legislators listen to the public. A large number of candidates are already publicly supporting a repeal of the PLDC,” Harris says in the release. “This isn’t surprising. What is surprising is how few candidates are willing to publicly support the PLDC. Candidates are starting to see the beleaguered PLDC as a sinking ship.”
The Sierra Club is directly supporting candidates who have taken strong positions against the PLDC, according to Sierra Club.
“The Sierra Club is proud to support candidates that are willing to draw the line on the PLDC,” Harris said in the release. “As a watchdog environmental organization, it is our obligation to raise the public’s awareness about the implications of this law and notify the public about the candidates who support it.”
On Oct. 16, the Sierra Club, Hawai‘i Chapter, had sent a press release criticizing PLDC’s decision to hold only one statewide public hearing — in the middle of a workday.
“Lloyd Haraguchi is insulting thousands of Neighbor Island residents by excluding them from the process. In addition, the decision to hold a hearing in the middle of a workday, when most people cannot attend the hearing, reflects a deliberate intent to ignore the public’s voice,” Harris says in the Oct. 16 release.
• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.