KAHEA's Opposition to GM 583 confirming the nomination of Chris Yuen

Posted by Lauren Muneoka at May 17, 2020 09:20 PM |
KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance in strong opposition to GM 583 and decline to confirm the nomination of Chris Yuen to yet another term to the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Take action and let your voice be heard! This convenient form created by Healani Pale will send your comments to all of the Senators who have decision-making power on this issue. Please read KAHEA's submitted testimony below.

Aloha Senators,

Please accept this testimony from KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance in strong opposition to GM 583 and decline to confirm the nomination of Chris Yuen to yet another term to the Board of Land and Natural Resources. KAHEA is a Hawai‘i-community based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with over 10,000 supporters. Mr. Yuen has served for 14 years in total on the BLNR, which violates the spirit, if not the letter of HRS § 26-34, which limits terms of service to 8 consecutive years. Vacating Member Yuen’s spot would allow the Governor to appoint a person from any number of underrepresented groups on the BLNR, including kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiians) and women.

Mr. Yuen treats large landowners and developers with deference, but aggressively questions Hawaiians and others who champion natural resources. He takes applicants at their word, but submits aloha ‘āina to searching scrutiny for any real or imagined inconsistency in their claims and positions.

In addition to his past bad actions, enumerated below, if re-appointed, Mr. Yuen will be a decisionmaker on many controversial issues that matter greatly to Hawaiian and local communities in Hawaiʻi. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Long term lease arrangements for the East Maui stream

  • Long term lease arrangements for Wai’ale’ale stream

  • Allowable ʻōpeʻapea (bat) take by wind turbines

  • Influencing negotiations on Mauna Kea related issues like  a
    possible future general lease, management plan updates

  • Allowable take for the aquarium fish trade

  • Oversight on leases of state land for military use

Our resources, and the people who rely on them, deserve decisionmakers who are committed to compassionate listening, creative solutions and critical questioning of entities that pose harm to their health. Mr. Yuen has showed time and time again that he will not commit to doing so.

Reasons we oppose Mr. Yuenʻs continued tenure on BLNR include his positions on:

1.      Thirty-Meter Telescope permit.  Mr. Yuen voted in favor of granting the TMT permit, ignoring the many concerns of the community and long-time advocates concerning the desecration of Mauna Kea.

2.       Mauna Kea emergency rules. Mr. Yuen aggressively questioned opponents of emergency rules, but did not similarly question proponents. He was convinced that it was an emergency requiring immediate action. Yet, after a circuit court judge struck down the emergency rules, nothing happened. There was nothing to justify any sort of emergency. There never was.

3.      Kahuku wind turbines. After the hearing officer recommended that a permit for the controversial Kahuku wind project be denied, Mr. Yuen aggressively questioned counsel for Keep the North Shore Country while deferring to the claims of the applicant. He discounted recent scientific studies and ignored evidence that showed that every wind facility has grossly underestimated how many ōpe‘ape‘a they would kill. Yet he accepted the applicant’s unsupported claim that it could not curtail the spinning of the blades when necessary to protect ‘ōpe‘ape‘a.

4.      Kahala Hotel. The Kahala Hotel operated a restaurant, tourist cabanas, and sold wedding packages on public land, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars. When community members brought the violations to BLNR’s attention, Mr. Yuen shrugged his shoulders and supported for the hotel, which continues to exclude members of the public from the beach.

5.      Labor violations in longline fisheries. Mr. Yuen convinced the Board to ignore the connection between the state’s commercial fishing licensing practice for foreign fishing operations and the exploitation of local fisheries and workers via an indentured servant system on longline fishing ships operating out of Hawai`i. One petitioner, a Hawaiian fisherman, has appealed BLNRʻs decision all the way to the Hawai‘i Supreme Court.

6.      Seawalls for vacation condos. Mr. Yuen convinced BLNR to approve a seawall for a timeshare investment on Maui called Hololani. He actively disregarded the pleas of community members and longtime fishers to protect shoreline from the erosion caused by seawalls. Instead of addressing their concerns, Mr. Yuen questioned community members, who had flown in from Maui, why they hadnʻt raised their concerns at prior BLNR meetings.

7.      ‘Ewa limu. Mr. Yuen expressed disdain for limu gatherers whose practice would obviously be adversely impacted by the discharge of polluted stormwater on top of limu beds in ‘Ewa.

8.      Hilton Hotel profits.  Mr. Yuen argued BLNR should charge less for the Hilton to use state land to launch its fireworks displays for guests, even though DLNR lacks adequate funds as it is.

For these reasons, amongst others,  we strongly urge you to Oppose GM 583 and decline to confirm the nomination of Chris Yuen to another term to the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Mahalo for your time and consideration,
KAHEA Board and Staff, 2020

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