Report Title:

EIS System; Study; Appropriation



Provides appropriation to auditor to contract with the UH for a study to modernize Hawaii's EIS process.



H.B. NO.


















     SECTION 1.  The legislature finds that chapter 341, Hawaii Revised Statutes, which creates the office of environmental quality control, the state environmental council, and the University of Hawaii environmental center, chapter 343, Hawaii Revised Statutes, the State's environmental impact review law, and chapter 344, Hawaii Revised Statutes, the State's environmental policy act, are three related laws that have formed a strong foundation for protecting Hawaii's environment for over thirty years.  The environmental review process and the institutions created have served the State well.

     However, in recent years, concerns have arisen about the ability of this system to adapt to the modern demands for achieving sustainability in Hawaii in a way that appropriately balances the state economy, environment, and social conditions over the long-term.  Many new challenges have arisen for agencies, planners, businesses, and affected communities, as well as for the courts, which are not well addressed by existing laws.  There is growing need to ensure that the State is resilient to natural hazards and that development considers factors such as climate change, sea level rise, and risks associated with hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, flooding, wildfires, and other natural and technological hazards.  In addition, the best practices for environmental assessment globally and nationally have changed dramatically since Hawaii's laws were written, and Hawaii has not optimized the opportunities to learn from these developments.

     It is vital to ensure that Hawaii has an environmental review system appropriate for the State in the 21st century, fully integrated with the state and county permitting system, that examines impacts early in the planning process, and that is effective, efficient, and equitable.

     Recent events, including the Hawaii supreme court's August 31, 2007 decision in the Hawaii Superferry case related to chapter 343, Hawaii Revised Statutes, the subsequent proceedings of the second special session of the twenty-fourth legislature of the State of Hawaii, and increasing public attention to the importance of chapter 343, Hawaii Revised Statutes, demonstrate that there is urgent need for an independent study, in collaboration with representative stakeholders, to inform the public, agencies, applicants, and the legislature about how best to modernize Hawaii's environmental review system.

     SECTION 2.  The 2006 legislature enacted Act 294, Session Laws of Hawaii 2006, appropriating $108,675 to the University of Hawaii environmental center to perform a comprehensive review of the State's current environmental impact statement process under chapter 343, Hawaii Revised Statutes.  Due to an internal error by the department of health, appropriated funds prematurely lapsed, requiring an abrupt termination of the already commenced study.  Therefore, the intent of this Act is to revive this study, provide it stronger support, and to focus it more specifically on developing a strategy for modernizing Hawaii's environmental review system.

     SECTION 3.  The auditor shall execute a contract with the University of Hawaii to conduct a study on the State's environmental review process.  The study shall: 

     (1)  Examine the effectiveness of the current environmental review system created by chapters 341, 343, and 344, Hawaii Revised Statutes;

     (2)  Assess the unique environmental, economic, social, and cultural issues in Hawaii that should be incorporated into an environmental review system;

     (3)  Address larger concerns and interests related to sustainable development, global environmental change, and disaster risk reduction; and

     (4)  Develop a strategy, including legislative recommendations, for modernizing Hawaii's environmental review system so that it meets international and national best practices standards.

     In recognition of the long-term process required to effect legislative and statutory change, the study shall include a process to obtain input on the recommendations from representative stakeholders.

     SECTION 4.  To ensure that a comprehensive review is conducted, the University of Hawaii, through the research corporation of the University of Hawaii, shall establish an interdisciplinary team of faculty, researchers, and students, from the University of Hawaii department of urban and regional planning, the environmental center, and the environmental law program at the William S. Richardson school of law, among other technical experts in the field of environmental management and planning.

     SECTION 5.  The University of Hawaii shall submit the comprehensive review to the legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the regular session of 2010.

     SECTION 6.  There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $300,000 or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2008-2009 for the auditor to contract with the department of urban and regional planning, University of Hawaii, through the research corporation of the University of Hawaii to perform a study of the State's environmental review process.

     The sum appropriated shall be expended by the auditor for the purposes of this Act.

     SECTION 7.  This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2008.