The implications of the Hawaii Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of the Oahu resort, outlined in today’s article, aren’t restricted to whether a planned expansion is good or bad for the North Shore.

The real question is whether Environmental Impact Statements should be subject to review after approval. We’ve created a page to help you understand how the EIS process works.

State law says developers should produce an EIS at the “earliest practicable time” to give the community a chance to weigh in on proposed developments. The Supreme Court on April 8 called for a supplemental EIS when changes to the environment in the vicinity of a project create the possibility of increased or different impacts than were anticipated in the initial EIS.

Major developments can take decades to come to fruition, but the ruling didn’t set a firm time limit for when they should be reviewed. Some EIS documents might still be valid after 25 years, while some might become outdated in just 5 years.

If you think that it’s more important for the state to have predictability for land owners when they buy and consider plans for their acreage, then you might think the decision opened a can of worms and undermined private property values. You also might be concerned that, as a a First Hawaiian Bank brief in the case warned, requiring landowners to reopen plans could hurt the construction industry, an important sector of the economy.

But if you think that it’s more important to respond to changed conditions on the ground to protect the environment for the public good, then you might think the decision was an important step in acknowledging that no decision can be forever and that the public interest always must be weighed. You might agree with the attorney who told me that the decision does the right thing for the community by giving it a “second bite out of the apple” to lobby decision-makers about a project.

Or maybe you think about it differently, or believe both points of view have merit. We’re interested in hearing your thoughts.

About the Author