Advocates are urging residents to call the governor’s office to fend off the vetos.

More than three dozen environmental and community organizations are asking Gov. Josh Green not to veto measures they say will protect Hawaii’s freshwater resources.

The governor has expressed his intention to veto HB153, which would allow the Hawaii Commission on Water Resource Management to issue fines of up to $60,000 per day to those who violate the state water code. The current limit is $5,000 per day.

In an intent to veto notice, Green’s office called the increase “arbitrary and discretionary” and said it could put a damper on housing development across the state.

“Boards of water supply across all counties would almost immediately apply such fines to developments guilty of over-pumping water,” he said.

Wayne Tanaka, executive director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii, said in a press release that the bill is necessary, particularly given the water crisis brought on by the Navy’s fuel leaks at Red Hill. In addition to contaminating the island’s aquifer, the Navy has pumped more water than its permit allows.

“This bill would give the Water Commission the tools it says it needs to take timely action in an emergency, to prevent frivolous uses of our precious freshwater supplies that should be prioritized for our homes, schools, hospitals – our most vital needs,” he said.

Green also announced he will veto HB1088, which would make it easier for the Commission on Water Resource Management to declare water-related emergencies. His office said the commission already has the power to do this.

But advocates say that’s not good enough. They say that the legislation would allow the commission to more quickly order reductions of nonessential water use during a crisis, whether it’s a drought or additional pollution from Red Hill.

“Gov. Green should rethink these veto decisions so that he can make a real contribution
towards solving the current Red Hill fuel crisis, and set our future selves up for success when
the next crisis hits,” said Marti Townsend, a specialist with the environmental law firm Earthjustice.

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