Ending months of uncertainty, Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced Thursday that he has appointed Scott Glenn to serve as director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

Glenn will take the reins in November from Jessica Wooley, whose term ended June 30. Ige had been extending her time as director on a monthly basis while deciding what to do with the position.

There have been questions since at least April about whether Wooley would be asked to stay on as head of OEQC.

Capitol Building. 24 march 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Clouds of uncertainty have lingered over the Capitol when it comes to environmental appointments. Gov. David Ige has appointed Scott Glenn to replace Jessica Wooley as head of the Office of Environmental Quality Control. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It’s a small office with big responsibilities. One of its major functions is to implement the laws and rules regarding environmental impact statements. The statements are comprehensive reviews of the potential environmental, social, economic and cultural impacts of certain projects, such as those using land classified as a conservation district, within a shoreline area or within a historic site.

Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Wooley in March 2014. The Senate confirmed her in a 17-8 vote, split in part over her support for labeling genetically modified food.

The OEQC director is one of several environmental posts the administration has neglected or struggled to fill, depending on who you ask.

Ige has yet to appoint a permanent director to the Office of Planning. Leo Asuncion Jr. has been serving as acting director for over a year. His focus for the past several months has been providing advice on the proposed $4.3 billion sale of Hawaiian Electric Industries to Florida-based NextEra Energy.

The Environmental Council has been perhaps the hardest hit.

Glenn, who will be leaving his job as environmental planner at Cardno, an environmental engineering firm, has been serving as vice chair of the council, which has struggled to conduct business due to so many empty seats.

Scott Glenn was appointed OEQC director Thursday.
Scott Glenn was appointed OEQC director Thursday. Courtesy of Governor's Office

His term on the council officially ended June 30, along with those of two others, including the current chair, Joseph Shacat. But all three have continued serving for the past three months on a holdover basis so the council could have enough members to meet.

With six vacancies on the 15-member council, the council can’t hold an official meeting if more that one person is absent, since it needs majority of members to do so. That also means to approve anything, since a majority vote is needed, only one person can vote no, abstain or be absent.

As a result, the council has had to cancel multiple meetings over the past year, most recently this month.

The council — which advises Ige, government agencies and the Legislature on the myriad environmental issues facing Hawaii — will have an even harder time conducting business next month because it will be down to eight members, unless the governor appoints new members within the next couple weeks.

That’s because the OEQC director is an ex-officio member on the council, so when Glenn takes on that role next month he won’t be able both to keep his current seat on the council and fill the ex-officio seat.

Several people who applied months ago to serve on the Environmental Council said they have not heard back from the administration. And others continue to await a decision, including at least one current member who is seeking another term.

The governor’s office has said it continues to look for qualified people to fill environmental posts in the administration.

Ige, who returned this week from a trip to Japan, said Glenn is well qualified to be OEQC director, an appointment that’s subject to Senate confirmation.

“Scott is passionate about working with diverse stakeholders to plan together for a better shared future,” Ige said in a release. “His education, work experience and volunteer service have prepared him to make a difference in this position.”

Glenn, a past chair of the Sierra Club’s Hawaii Chapter, has a masters in urban and regional planning from the University of Hawaii.

While working for the past five years at Cardno, Glenn focused on the intersection of planning, asset management and risk analysis, the release said. It noted that he has managed budgets and held key roles on multi-million dollar projects for clients in the public and private sector.

Glenn’s focus lately has been on including climate-change issues in federal decision-making tools, the release said.

“The office has a key role in the stewardship of our environment and economy,” Glenn said in a statement. “I look forward to bringing a collaborative approach grounded in technical expertise to the office and working with my fellow board members on the Environmental Council to reach out to the public and all stakeholders.”

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