Verbatim: Lingle comments on rail EIS process

Hawaii Independent Staff

Gov. Linda Lingle released the following statement about a rally by various organizations to encourage her to sign the final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Honolulu rail transit project:

“While I understand the desire of rail supporters to want to see the project start, and recognize that some candidates may have a vested political interest in giving the public a false impression that I am somehow delaying approval of the final EIS, I have a legal responsibility to ensure that the environmental impact statement complies with Hawaii’s environmental law. Moreover, I have a fiduciary responsibility to do an objective, common sense financial analysis of what this project—the most expensive public works project in our state’s history—will cost Hawaii taxpayers over the long-term. 

“The fact is, the final EIS is not on my desk as some have incorrectly stated. The EIS is currently being reviewed by the Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC), which is analyzing the EIS section by section to make certain that it meets the requirements of the state’s environmental law, Hawaii Revised Statutes Chapter 343.

“As part of the OEQC’s extensive review process, determined by its administrative rules, the OEQC must determine whether the comments submitted during the public comment period have been satisfactorily addressed in the final EIS. There were over 13,000 public comments submitted, and the OEQC is required to verify that all have been addressed.

“While the OEQC is continuing its legally required review of the EIS, my Administration is also performing the financial due diligence to make certain Hawaii taxpayers can afford this multi-billion project—including the cost to operate, maintain, and sustain the system well into the future.

“To this end, the State Department of Transportation at the beginning of this month awarded a contract to Infrastructure Management Group (IMG), Inc., in association with CB Richard Ellis, Inc., to conduct an independent economic analysis, financial assessment, and evaluation of the proposed rail transit project.

“The scope of work includes an analysis and evaluation of the capital costs to build the project as well as the operating and maintenance cost projections prepared by the City and County of Honolulu. The work will include a determination of the reasonableness and accuracy of the City’s plans and revenue sources to fund the single largest, most expensive public works project that has ever been undertaken in Hawaii.

“I have informed the Federal Transportation Authority (FTA) that we are conducting an independent financial analysis and will share the findings with them.  I have also requested updated financial information that the City provided to the FTA, since the last financial report issued for the project was published in August 2009.

“Another issue that still has not been resolved is the programmatic agreement, which lays out a plan on how to treat Native Hawaiian remains and other cultural resources that might be in the route of the rail. This programmatic agreement must be reached and signed off by the Federal Transit Administration, federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, State Historic Preservation Division, and the City before the EIS can be accepted.  These discussions are still ongoing and no agreement has been reached.

“To ask me to sign the EIS at this point in time is inappropriate and premature.”