Posted tagged ‘environment’

Obama needs to get real on nuclear crisis

March 16, 2011

It’s highly disappointing that the best leadership President Barack Obama can display on the nuclear catastrophe in Japan is to offer boilerplate assurances about the safety of nuclear power when what we see on TV doesn’t look very safe at all.

The president said in TV interviews yesterday that U.S. nuclear facilities are safe and designed to withstand earthquakes.

Sometimes, I wish we could just pause and try to understand these disasters that befall us and what lessons we can learn from them without politicians trying to cut off meaningful discussion by running around making mindless defenses of their pet special interests before all the facts are even known.

In this case, it seems insanity not to take a moment to question whether we’re trying to harness a deadly power that simply cannot be safely harnessed for the long term. Systems are going to fail. People are going to screw up. Great earthquakes and other natural disasters are going to happen.

The scary thing is that Japan is one of the most technologically adept nations. There are countries building nuclear facilities for power and weapons that barely have the expertise to tie their technological shoelaces.

Obama blithely argued that all energy technologies have their dangers, pointing to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

With all due respect to the long-suffering Gulf Coast residents, if the worst happens at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex — full meltdown of the six reactors — it could cause a worldwide health, environmental and economic disaster that dwarfs the gulf oil spill.

The unprecedented catastrophe in Japan is providing valuable new information about the risk side of the nuclear power equation. To respond with political babble instead of thoughtful analysis is  irresponsible.


Stakes going up in legal fight over O’ahu rail

March 15, 2011

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.

A Target on my back

November 30, 2010

Sometimes it’s the smallest issues that bring out the biggest emotions, and so it was with my column in the Star-Advertiser last week about the fuss over Target’s plans to open in the Don Quijote spot in downtown Kailua.

I just couldn’t see the big deal about one out-of-state company taking over the same space from another out-of-state company for the same purpose.

Target doesn’t have the bad reputation as some other mainland big-box retailers. It’s a good company and a good store; other local communities were almost as excited to get a Target as UH fans were excited about getting invited to the Mountain West Conference.

But opponents of the new store remain certain it’ll ruin Kailua’s character and took my head off for suggesting otherwise. Others wrote to thank me for saying it so they didn’t have to and have their own heads taken off.

One anonymous reader put the issue in the best perspective for me by recounting a conversation with a Target protester that went something like this:

“Well, how about if Don Quijote fixed up its rundown store, paved the potholed parking lot and radically improved the quality of its merchandise?”

“That would be good.”

“Duh, that’s a Target!”
If you’re looking for something different in greeting cards to express your best  holiday wishes, I recommend a couple of lines with musical themes created by out-of-work Honolulu Symphony musicians.

Check out Grin-n-Barrett Cards by Paul Barrett, the orchestra’s principal bassoonist, and Normzart Greeting Cards by clarinetist Norman F. Foster.

No chocolate-coating the oil disaster

June 28, 2010

I’m not sure that pouring chocolate syrup over three lovely beach bunnies wearing string bikinis and pouty faces was the best way for “Hands Across the Sand” organizers in Waikiki to illustrate the plight of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

I doubt the poor petro-soaked waterfowl have guys lined up volunteering to lick it off of them.

But I can understand why those brought together Saturday by the Sierra Club, Blue Planet Foundation and Surfrider Foundation felt a need to do something to express their outrage over the environmental catastrophe in the gulf that keeps getting worse.

It’s unimaginable that after all these decades of deep-sea oil drilling, there was no plan in place to deal expeditiously with such a disaster that was bound to happen sooner or later. And it’s unbelievable how blithely continued drilling-as-usual is being defended in some quarters.

The Waikiki event tried to turn a negative into a positive by urging us to take the BP disaster as a “wake-up call” to end our oil dependency.

“When we decided to put a man on the moon, there was an assembly of the best and the brightest to figure out how to move forward,” said Robert Harris of the Sierra Club. “Our message to President Obama is that’s what we need to do now. We need a collective vision of how to move the U.S. off of oil. We need a 20-year plan.”

State Sen. Mike Gabbard said, “If there’s any place on the planet that can get off of foreign oil, it’s this place right here. We have sun, wind, ocean thermal, geothermal, waves.”

They’re absolutely right, of course, but we’ve been saying the exact same things with minimal action since the first OPEC oil embargo in 1973-74.

What’s going to make it different this time?

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