Editor’s note: Rail opponents Cliff Slater, Ben Cayetano, Randy Roth and Walter Heen gave Civil Beat permission to publish as a separate article their comment on our Fact Check regarding environmental opposition to the rail project.
Civil Beat chose to fact check only one (in bold face below) of the nine points we made in the environmental section of our op/ed that appeared in the August 21 Star-Advertiser:
“Construction of the proposed system would lead to the large-scale development of prime farmland and change forever the Hawaiian sense of place. Imagine the sound of each 72,000-pound, steel-on-steel elevated rail car as it accelerates to 60 miles per hour and then decelerates to a stop between each of 21 stations, every three minutes in each direction. The elevated railway would permanently diminish the mauka/makai views along the entire route, and the ambiance of Honolulu’s waterfront would be particularly affected. The city claims that rail would save energy. However, U.S. Department of Energy data shows that, except in heavily populated urban centers, rail requires more energy per rider than do automobiles. The smallest urban center with heavy rail is four times larger than Honolulu. No wonder virtually every environmental group in Hawaii opposes heavy rail despite the city’s false claims that it would be a ‘green’ project.”
As stated in our website, our letter head, and on every press release we send out, and the common mission of all our supporters, is:
“to keep elevated rail out of our city.”
We could have added these words to the half sentence you chose to call false,
“No wonder virtually every RELEVANT environmental group in Hawaii opposes ELEVATED heavy rail THROUGH TOWN.”
We had already made it clear in the op/ed that, “we are challenging the process by which the city chose elevated heavy rail over alternatives that would reduce traffic and protect the environment.”
There are only four environmental groups on O‘ahu that one can reasonably call relevant on the rail issue.
It is unreasonable to include in your survey those environmental groups who do not take positions on such issues. These include Nature Conservancy, Surfrider Foundation, Makai Society, Conservation Council of Hawai‘i, and Earthjustice.
It is equally unreasonable to include groups who are not generally considered “environmental,” such as Kanu Hawai‘i and Historic Hawai‘i Foundation.
Nor is it reasonable to include any whose focused mission does not include the rail project, such as the Defend O‘ahu Coalition.
That leaves four environmental groups still on your list. It is not a coincidence that, other than Historic Hawai‘i’s generally critical comments on historic properties, these four organizations were the only ones on your list to submit comments on the EIS.
Two of them you admit are opposed, Hawai‘i’s Thousand Friends and Life of the Land. One you say took no position, Outdoor Circle, and one who you say favors rail, Sierra Club.
You conclude that the Outdoor Circle is not opposed to the current rail project despite their having written the following statement,
“We consequently are united in our opposition to the construction of an elevated heavy-rail system through historic downtown Honolulu and strongly urge consideration of a less destructive and more neighborhood friendly system.”
We believe that a reasonable person could consider that as opposition to the proposed system.
We used the expression “virtually every” because the Sierra Club has equivocated on the city’s proposed project. For example, here’s one of its comments on the rail project from the Draft EIS,
“Why is the entire transit route elevated? Where geography permits, the transit route should be placed at ground level to reduce cost of construction, energy consumption during construction, and impacts to view planes.”
It would not be unreasonable to describe that as some degree of opposition to the proposed elevated project, but again, we said “virtually every” rather than “every” precisely because of the Sierra Club’s mixed messages on the proposed elevated rail project. They evidently find difficulty in not deferring to their national organization’s pro-rail mission.
Environmental groups generally are not opposed to all rail transit projects. In fact, the Honolulu project is possibly the only one that environmental groups DO oppose. This unusual position is what makes their opposition to the proposed elevated rail project so important and why reasonable people should pay attention to the reasons for their opposition.
Your characterization of our statement as false, is itself false.