Stakes going up in legal fight over O’ahu rail

The continuing fight over the $5.5 billion O’ahu rail project may soon be headed to federal court.

A group that includes former Gov. Ben Cayetano has retained nationally prominent environmental attorney Nicholas Yost for a possible lawsuit to halt the proposed 20-mile commuter line between Kapolei and Ala Moana.

Cayetano didn’t disclose the others in the coalition, but said they include “liberals, conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, environmentalists, businessmen and libertarians.”

The lawsuit is expected to challenge the findings of the rail environmental impact statement, its methodology, the project’s finances and the city’s projections on population and ridership, among other issues.

The city anticipated a lawsuit to delay the train and included funds in the rail budget for a legal defense.

Yost, based in San Francisco, is a heavy-hitter on environmental law who received the American Bar Association’s 2010 award for distinguished achievement in environmental law and policy.

He was general counsel for the Council on Environmental Quality in the Carter administration, playing a lead role in drafting regulations to implement the National Environmental Policy Act, which governs environmental impact statements for projects involving federal funds. He was also senior attorney for the Center for Law in the Public Interest.

In private practice, he has represented numerous clients on issues related to NEPA compliance.

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15 Comments on “Stakes going up in legal fight over O’ahu rail”

  1. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Let’s blast those greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere so that we can start really raising sea levels. A few more earthquakes and storm surges and there won’t be any need for Planned Parenthood anymore to control O`ahu’s population.

    What is with these nutburgers who think that driving 75 cars is somehow less environmentally bad than having these same 75 people ride a train into town.
    If the train has two cars, that’s 150 people; three cars, 225 and so on. There is no justification whatsoever to argue that 225 cars are better than one train with three cars carrying 225 passengers.

    Electricity can be generated from a variety of resources, but internal combustion engines need OIL!! It will be decades before we have more than 90% of our vehicles plugged into a wall socket.

    I support paying higher taxes for the train even though I will not use it very often. I also support the schools and the Fire Department even though I don’t use their services very often either.

  2. WooWoo Says:

    CWD, It’s beneath you to resort to demeaning people who disagree with you. Cayetano, like many rail opponents, is no nutburger.

    What happens when in 10 years, as the rail is about halfway done, breakthroughs in battery technology allows prices of electric cars to fall to levels comparable to gas powered cars?

  3. MynahBlog Says:

    In ten years you would then have twice as many cars as you do now and total gridlock…the cars would just run on electricity.

    A fixed rail (and elevated) transit system is the only solution that will guarantee that travel from point A to point B will take the same amount of time into the future. And moving 225 people in one electrical train will always be more efficient that moving them in 225 seperate electrical vehicles.

    I do agree with one thing…”nutburger” is not the word I would use to describe former governor Cayetano.

  4. Richard Gozinya Says:

    Funding for the rail is looking weaker and weaker. Is the plan to build at any cost and just tax the residents to make up for any tax shortfall? No one ever answers that for me.

    How we can insist that a 20 mile, 5+ billion dollar train is the highest priority for our tax dollars is frankly beyond me.

  5. Michael Says:

    I was watching Andy Griffith show on Tv. Talk about small town but full of Aloha.

    As far as the rail goes, too small, too short and will not accomplish taking off 60,000 people off the roads. With the fuel of oil going up and the possibility of another real devastating Tsunami to hit Oahu. It will be a disaster.

    A novelty item that people will build only to hang laundry on to dry when they get bored with it.
    It is not a one who was born and raised here would want. I would want Hawaii to stay a Mayberry.

  6. Jim Loomis Says:

    Let’s find out who’s paying for this high-priced “heavy-hiter” attorney!

  7. ppcc Says:

    from Capitolist:
    “it will be decades before we have more than 90% of our vehicles plugged into a wall socket.”

    How can this be decades from now when as we write K Mark Takai and about 8 other people in Hawaii are now driving the Nissan Leaf which is 100 PERCENT electric? Obviously there will be delays for full Leaf production given Japan’s earthquake/tsunami/radiation leak disaster since it was mentioned that production of their lithium ion car battery plant has been temporarily halted, but as we speak American, S Korean, European car manufacturers will take advantage of this unfortunate Nissan stumble and get a full production electric vehicle out as well. You fail or choose not to realize, the MAJORITY of Hawaii commuters travel less than 100 miles a day, drive on basically flat topography and year round mild weather devoid of snow, sleet, hail, 100 degree heat, etc. These paramaters make it a PERFECT fit for early implementation of full electric vehicles such as the Leaf. Now if Hawaii residents had drive in road conditions like that in Alaska, North Dakota, Arizona (ie extreme heat) that might be another story.

    Seems paid and unpaid rail cheerleaders are so desperate in trying to drum up support for the special interest Aloha train to nowhere, all is left is to “cry wolf” and talk about unrealistic and unsubstantiated Oahu doomsday nightmare scenarios of how Oahu would be without the rail and make personal attacks on people who have issues with the rail. The writing is on the wall all the way up to Washington DC and Obama that the Oahu rail will never be given any real federal funding and CANNOT be afforded by the State of Hawaii. However seems the plan is to for people in control of the rail money currently received from the .5% GET (minus 10% taken by the State) and the few millions already given to the City by the Feds to SPEND IT ALL before someone takes away that money. And that includes creating permanent six figure rail transit authority jobs for the connected. Seems easier to create these positions rather than delete these positions, however more importantly doesn’t the people in these jobs get to use these positions to calculate their high three retirement pay?

  8. Kolea Says:

    The initial anti-rail coalition was way too ideological. Unless you were comfortable with Cliff Slater’s libertarian solutions, like “toll roads,” and the anti-union, anti-Democratic rhetoric, you shied away from any involvement.

    Among Democratic networks, critical thinking on the subject was inhibited, partly out of support for a “jobs project” for the building trades and partly because of a superficial, “environmentalist” inclination to support “mass transit.”

    I not only “believe in” mass transit, I often use it. If the corporate-political elite which controls these islands really wanted to expand use of mass transit, they could do so EASILY by expanding bus service and dropping the fares. The fact they refuse to do this strongly suggests they have other motivations. Not secret, sinister motives, but structural ones which drive their consensus.

    With Mufi pushing the Rail, it was easy to see he was more interested in getting campaign contributions, directing contracts to engineering firms, architects and contractors, than in resolving transportation problems. Raising the property values for Campbell Estate lands and developments at Ko Olina and the new Disney project were motives. Providing good-paying jobs for construction workers, resulting in continued campaign support for the Mufster. And the rezoning and development near transit stops was also expected to create a great deal of wealth/ economic activity.

    All of those factors provide a better explanation for the route and overbuilt nature of the project than environmental or transportation policy considerations.

    When Inouye was able to get 9-1 federal matching funds for H-3, it made sense. At least, from the selfish vantage point of a Hawaii resident. Inouye no longer has that sort of clout. Oahu residents will have to pay the majority of those billions of dollars out of our own pockets and have a strong incentive to reconsider whether this is the best way to spend scarce dollars. Creating jobs is GOOD! But we’ve got orads which need paving, schools which need maintenance, a sewage system which needs replacing and, if we run out of projects, a good case can be made, on both economic and aesthetic arguments, for undergrounding a lot of our overhead power lines.

    I support the idea of a light rail system from West Oahu to Downtown, past the Airport, to Waikiki, to UH Manoa. I believe both the cost and the “carbon footprint” of a light rail system would be much less than the overbuilt elevated Mufi Rail system which appears to have so much inertia, even as majority opinion, in my view, has turned against it.

    The new coalition, with the visible participation of Cayetano and other independent Democrats, is evidence of this broader opposition to the Rail proposal.

  9. Michael Says:

    Toy train on a table top. Better yet put a horse and other animals and make this a Merry Go Round.

    As if Hawaii has the money for rail after recent damage to Oahu and neighboring Islands. Rail will run only 4 days a week and Furloughed on Fridays. Weekend maintanance. I rode the sugar cane train when it was running. That was our olden day rail.
    Notice the tracks left behind.

    Weight of the structures will damage more water pipes. Oahu won’t sink by a tsunami, it will sink with all the weight of cement. Check out Bishop Museum and see how the Island sit on pillars. The structure of each Island is detiriorating from constant hurricane and past tsunamis. Put more cement and end up not as a canoe sinking but everything on an Island. Waikiki is sinking slowly, not by loss of sand but the ocean is taking more grounds. Under all the water pipes is sand. Sand will collapse when wet.

  10. Anticoqui Says:

    why is it that to ‘solve’ the traffic congestion, more roads are built? Jobs? mostly temporary until the project is finished. More roadways only allow for more cars to get on. Transportation monies should be for promoting mass transit/bus usage and fixing present roads(potholes). Rail as a short-haul mode is mind-boogling; it will need ‘laterals’ to move folks to their actual destinations. Businesses and State jobs should have provided housing near their sites so no or very little car uase would be needed. too bad it’s all 20-20 hind-sight. Isn’t that the legacy of plantation days/camps; house the workers near their jobs or they get transported by work-vehicles to wherever they need to be.

  11. David Says:

    The real solution is decentralization of Oahu, not spending $5.5+ billion to pay back politicians’ campaign contributors. If we didn’t have to shuffle most of the population of Oahu into Honolulu and Waikiki each day, we wouldn’t need rail.

    Electric cars are a dead end for Hawaii. Most people don’t live in places where you can plug your car in to charge it up. And want to see your household’s electric consumption put you into HECO’s new top tier $$$ charge? Just plug your electric car in over night …

  12. ppcc Says:

    The majority of Oahu commuters travel LESS than 100 miles per day and the Nissan Leaf full electric vehicle has a 100 mile range which means an Oahu commuter does NOT need to find a charge station and only needs to charge the Leaf when they get home. Also if that Leaf driver has a photovoltaic array system that can cover their daily electrical needs, including electricity needed to charge their Leaf vehicle, they would actually pay only the minimum $18 per month HECO service charge. Of course on cloudy days the Leaf owner with PV panels will have to use /pay electricity from HECO, but this is Hawaii and most days of the year are quite sunny.

  13. ppcc Says:

    Regarding PV panels to cover your home and car recharging electricity requirements, of course you need to live in a home in a area on Oahu that has good exposure to sunlight. The StarAdvertiser ran an article showing a map of these ideal Oahu locations and this is pretty much all of West Oahu and Honolulu, away from those that live deep in valleys or close to mountains such as most of Kailua and Kaneohe.

  14. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    We purchased a “new-2-us” car last weekend after our 1988 Toyota Camry snapped off a bolt on the frame which could not be replaced for less than $2300.

    While doing our search, I did explore the possibility of buying a used Prius, but they are about as available as a third leg on a human body.

    Just-4-fun, I called about Nissan Leaf and found that it would be almost a year before our name would pop up on the wait list and that it would cost 6.5 times my annual income and about 40% of our household’s annual income to buy a Leaf. Not a likely purchase for at least another two decades. By then, of course, I will have long shuffed off this mortal coil.

    FYI – all vehicle production in Japan has ceased for an indefinite time. That’s really going to impact our economy both here in Hawai`i as well as in the United States for __________ years.

    The fact is that it will be at least 25 years or even longer before cheap and easily-accessible alternative power will be available for personal vehicles.

    I know most of the people who oppose the transit system and they are nutburgers not only on this issue but on a whole bunch of other issues as well. I certainly don’t classify everyone a nutburger with whom I have a political disagreement, but I do with people who think that climate change & rising sea levels are a big hoax.

  15. Michael Says:

    “The fact is that it will be at least 25 years or even longer before cheap and easily-accessible alternative power will be available for personal vehicles.”
    Now that is a big hoax.

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