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Friday, April 07, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Friday, April 7, 2023

Hawai'i students learned this week that a state court will hear their climate change case to
reduce pollution from transportation throughout Hawai'i. Photo from Earthjustice

YOUTH PLAINTIFFS' CASE ON CLIMATE CHANGE WILL MOVE TO TRIAL IN HAWAI'I. This week Navahine F. v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation becomes the second constitutional climate trial and second youth-led climate trial in U.S. history, according to Earthjustice and Our Children's Trust, the two non-profits assisting the 14 students in trying the case in Hawai'i.
    Judge Jeffrey P. Crabtree, of Hawai'i's Environmental Court of First Circuit, ruled in favor of the youth plaintiffs, denying the state’s attempt to prevent the case from proceeding to trial. The case is
directed at stopping transportation systems from emitting pollution that damages the climate. It goes to trial in September.
    In his decision, the judge said the “Plaintiffs are minors" and that the State of Hawai'i's Constitution,
"Article XI, Section I is ‘For the benefit of present and future generations.’" The judge stated that "Plaintiffs allege nothing less than that they stand to inherit a world with severe climate change and the resulting damage to our natural resources.” He said that “it appears a declaratory judgment action will help resolve the parties’ different views of what the Legislature and the Constitution require.” 
Three of the 14 youth plaintiffs suing state of Hawai'i's Department of Transportation
 to stop pollution. Photo from Earthjustice
    Protecting the environment for the future of children was an argument also used less than a month ago in the Hu Honua biomass power plant case, when the Supreme Court of Hawai‘i upheld a decision to deny the plant’s operation due to its impact on climate change, ruling that a life-sustaining climate system is protected by the state constitution. The plant would have used farmed eucalyptus trees grown around Pahala and at other tree farms on the island.
    In his concurrence, Justice Mike Wilson cited Juliana v. United States, as well as an article by Our Children’s Trust Senior Litigation Attorney Andrea Rodgers, in reasoning that “the right to a life-sustaining climate system is also included in the due process right to ‘life, liberty, [and] property’ enumerated in Article I, section 5 and the public trust doctrine embodied in Article XI, section 1’s mandate that the State of Hawaiʻi ‘conserve and protect Hawaiʻi’s… natural resources [f]or the benefit of present and future generations[s].’”
    Navahine F. v. Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation, filed in June 2022, contends the DOT operates a transportation system that emits high levels of greenhouse gasses, violating the youth plaintiffs’ state constitutional rights, causing them significant harm, and impacting their ability to “live healthful lives in Hawaiʻi now and into the future,” according to the complaint.
    According to Earth Justice, Hawai‘i is recognized as a leader in state-level climate action, yet has missed every interim benchmark to reduce overall GHG emissions since 2008. "Transportation emissions are already the largest source of climate pollution in the state and are expected to rise 41 percent over the next decade. The youth plaintiffs are seeking to hold Hawai'i's Department of Transportation accountable to ensure they meet the state’s goal to decarbonize Hawaiʻi’s transportation sector and achieve a zero emissions economy by 2045."
    Lead attorneys Andrea Rodgers, with Our Children’s Trust; and Leinā‘ala L. Ley, with Earthjustice, responded to the decision that will allow the case to go forward:
 Earthjustice attorney Leinā‘ala L. Ley 
    Rodgers said, “Judge Crabtree recognized that these young people are entitled to have their constitutional rights to a safe climate protected by the Courts. The ruling makes it clear that the state government will be held accountable to comply with its own commitments to address the climate crisis, and that elected leaders can’t just talk about solving the climate emergency, without real emission reductions from transportation.”
    Ley said, “We are pleased that the Court rejected the Defendants’ attempt to shut the courthouse door on the youth Plaintiffs. These young people can now pursue their constitutional claims to a clean and healthful environment and for protection of Hawaiʻi’s public trust resources on the merits. As recognized by the other branches of government, Hawai‘i is facing an existential climate emergency, and it’s past time for the Department of Transportation to do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the next generation’s right to a healthy future on a livable planet.”
    Kaliko T, one of the younger plaintiffs, said, “I am glad that my story is helping to advance climate action in Hawaiʻi. I don’t want anyone else to suffer the way I and my family have. Her home was destroyed in a flood during Tropical Storm Olivia, while her community was still recovering from massive wildfires sparked by Hurricane Lane in 2018.
    Plaintiff Kalālapa W. said, “It is reassuring to have a court acknowledge our right to hold the Transportation Department accountable for their contribution to the climate crisis. I am excited to finally get to the substance of our claims.” 
    Lead plaintiff in the youth lawsuit, Mavajome F, from a tenth generation taro farming family, said, “I and my fellow plaintiffs are holding this so-called state of Hawaiʻi to its own promises and its own laws because we have a fundamental right to a safe climate. We will not allow our public trust resources to be further desecrated by state agencies working to make the climate crisis worse for all of us.”
    The youth plaintiffs are represented by Andrea Rodgers, Kimberly Willis, and Joanna Zeigler with Our Children’s Trust, and Isaac Moriwake and Leinā‘ala L. Ley of Earthjustice. This is one of several youth-led constitutional climate lawsuits brought by Our Children’s Trust with local counsel like Earthjustice’s Mid-Pacific Office. 
    See more on Earthjustice in Hawai'i at https://earthjustice.org/office/mid-pacific. See more on Our Children's Trust at https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/hawaii.

SUPREME COURT JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS is the target of the Senate Judiciary Committee member Mazie Hirono and collegues. They sent a letter Friday asking for an ethics investigation involving Thomas's "extensive billionaire-funded luxury travel and other outstanding allegations of misconduct." 
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas
Photo from Wikipedia
  A statement from Hirono, who represents Hawai'i in the. U.S. Senate, says the letter "comes a day after a bombshell ProPublica report exposed that Justice Thomas and his wife accepted extravagant vacations worth as much as $500,000 on the dime of Republican megadonor Harlan Crow." 
    The letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court says, "In light of yesterday's reporting by ProPublica that Justice Clarence Thomas has repeatedly accepted and failed to disclose gifts and travel from billionaire Harlan Crow, we write to request an investigation into these and other outstanding allegations of unethical, and potentially unlawful, conduct at the Supreme Court. To date, the Court has barely acknowledged, much less investigated, these allegations. Amidst all of this—perhaps due in part to the Court's inaction—the American people's trust in the Supreme Court has plummeted to an all-time low. We believe that it is your duty as Chief Justice 'to safeguard public faith in the judiciary,' and that fulfilling that duty requires swift, thorough, independent and transparent investigation into these allegations."
    In February, Hirono joined Senator Whitehouse and Rep. Johnson in reintroducing the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency (SCERT) Act, comprehensive legislation that would create a process for investigating misconduct at the Supreme Court, strengthen recusal standards for judges and disclosure rules for special interests trying to influence the courts, improve disclosure of gifts and travel for judges,
and mandate the creation of a binding code of ethics. The SCERT Act would require the Supreme Court to adopt disclosure rules for gifts, travel, and income that are at least as rigorous as ethics rules for members of Congress.
    "ProPublica's reporting underscores a disturbing disregard for transparency and ethics on the Supreme Court," said Hirono. "Americans should be able to trust that Supreme Court Justices apply the law fairly and objectively, but the Court's lack of a code of ethics rightfully undermines the public's faith in our judiciary. If the Court won't adopt a code of ethics, Congress needs to require it to, which is why we've introduced legislation to do exactly that."

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APRIL: TSUNAMI AWARENESS MONTH IN HAWAI'I is the subject of this week's Volcano Watch, the weeky article written by U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists and affiliates:
It's official! Governor Josh Green recently proclaimed that April is again Tsunami Awareness Month for the State of Hawaii. This is not to be confused with World Tsunami Awareness Day, which is November 5th.

    For decades, officials from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and International Tsunami Information Center, along with the Pacific Tsunami Museum, and other government officials have used April 1st as the beginning of a month-long campaign to spread the word on how to recognize and mitigate hazards from tsunamis.
    Tsunamis are a series of waves generated when a large volume of ocean water is displaced.

Aerial photo of the submerged coconut grove at Halapē, in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, following the

 1975 earthquake, Kīlauea. Prior to the earthquake, the coconut grove was surrounded by dry land.

   Why April 1st? The date marks the deadliest tsunami to hit our shores. In 1946, the ocean water was displaced by a M8.6 earthquake near the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. The tsunami run-up, or maximum rise of the incoming water on-shore, reached 55 ft (17 m) in Hilo and 158 people perished across the state. Locally, near the earthquake epicenter in Alaska, the run-up was 138 ft (42 m) on Unimak Island.
    Our islands are situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean—a giant body of water surrounded by a long chain of volcanoes (also known as the Ring of Fire) along the edge of five continents. These volcanoes exist because the Pacific plate is subducting under other tectonic plates. These subduction zones, where tectonic plates converge or come together, are where very large (megathrust) earthquakes typically happen. A more recent example of such an event is the M9.1 Tōhoku earthquake that occurred near Japan in 2011; it caused an 18 ft (5 m) run-up in Hawai'i a few hours after the earthquake.

In November 1975, Hawai`i's largest locally generated tsunami in the 20th
 century hit the Ka`u Coast, wrecking this house at Punalu`u. 
Photo by David Shapiro, of Honolulu Star-Bulletin
  Tsunamis that hit Hawai'i don't always come from distant earthquakes. Although not as frequent, tsunamis can also be generated by underwater volcanic eruptions. A very recent example of this is the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Haʻapai eruption in 2022. The volcanic plume in January 2022 rocketed 36 mi (58 km) up, above sea level, and was the largest volcanic blast ever recorded by modern instruments. This event caused 60 ft (20 m) run-up on local nearby islands, but only a small, but measurable, tsunami on Hawaiian shores.
    Fortunately for Hawai'i, we are far away from subduction zones and explosive volcanoes—though Kama'ehuakanaloa (formerly Lō'ihi Seamount) and other Hawaiian volcanoes sometimes produce small explosive eruptions. We have a few hours to react if a distant megathrust earthquake or catastrophic volcanic eruption causes a tsunami that crosses the Pacific.
Car totaled at Punalu'u in 1975 tsunami.
Photo by Andy Badig

    Unfortunately, Hawai'i can generate tsunamis locally. Such was the case on November 29, 1975, when a M7.7 earthquake was generated under Kalapana due to the south flank of Kīlauea abruptly sliding farther southeast towards the ocean. The strong local earthquake caused millions of dollars in property damage, and the subsequent tsunami took two lives at Halapē (a coastal camping location on the south flank of Kīlauea) and caused additional property damage with a maximum run-up of 47 ft (14 m).
    Locally generated tsunamis are why we must always be prepared. A local tsunami strikes fast and with little time for us to react—devastating waves can travel across the Hawaiian island chain in minutes, and not just in the month of April. If there is a strong earthquake and you are at a location along the coast, "Don't Fool Around. Get to High Ground!" This is a much better hazard mitigation policy than "Bumbai You Learn!"

   To learn more about tsunami preparedness, visit the International Tsunami Information Center website http://itic.ioc-unesco.org or head over in-person for free tsunami and hazard preparedness workshop at the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo on Saturday, April 22nd, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
    Volcano Activity Updates: Kīlauea is not erupting. Its USGS Volcano Alert level is ADVISORY.
    Webcams show no signs of active lava in Halemaʻumaʻu crater, at the summit of Kīlauea in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Summit tiltmeters showed one deflation-inflation event over the past week. Seismicity is low. The summit sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rate was most recently measured on April 5, when it totaled 110 tonnes per day.
    Mauna Loa is not erupting. Its USGS Volcano Alert Level is at NORMAL.
    Webcams show no signs of activity on Mauna Loa. Seismicity remains low. Summit ground deformation rates show inflation above background levels, but this is not uncommon following eruptions. SO2 emission rates are at background levels.

St. Jude's Hot Meals are free to those in need on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until food runs out, no later than noon. Volunteers from the community are welcome to help and can contact Karen at pooch53@gmail.com. Location is 96-8606 Paradise Circle Drive in Ocean View. Those in need can also take hot showers from 9 a.m. to noon and use the computer lab from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Free Meals Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are served from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Nā'ālehu Hongwanji. Volunteers prepare the food provided by 'O Ka'ū Kākou with fresh produce from its gardens on the farm of Eva Liu, who supports the project. Other community members also make donations and approximately 150 meals are served each day.


Volcano Thursday Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village, Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., with live music, artisan crafts, ono grinds, and fresh produce. See Volcano Evening Market facebook.

Volcano Swap Meet, fourth Saturday of the month from 8 a.m. to noon. Large variety of vendors with numerous products. Tools, clothes, books, toys, local made healing extract and creams, antiques, jewelry, gemstones, crystals, food, music, plants, fruits, and vegetables. Also offered are cakes, coffee, and shave ice. Live music. 

Volcano Farmers Market, Cooper Center, Volcano Village on Sundays, 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., with local produce, baked goods, food to go, island beef and Ka'ū Coffee. EBT is used for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps. Call 808-967-7800.

O Ka'ū Kākou Market, Nā'ālehu, Wednesdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Contact Nadine Ebert at 808-938-5124 or June Domondon 808-938-4875. See facebook.com/OKauKakouMarket.

Ocean View Community Market, Saturdays and Wednesdays, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., corner Kona Dr. Drive and Hwy 11, near Thai Grindz. Masks mandatory. 100-person limit, social distancing required. Gate unlocked for vendors at 5:30 a.m., $15 dollars, no rez needed. Parking in the upper lot. Vendors must provide their own sanitizer. Food vendor permits required. Carpooling is encouraged.