Honolulu officially files suit against fossil fuel industry

Contact: Marti Townsend
Telephone: 808-372-1314
Email: marti.townsend@sierraclub.org

HONOLULU, HAWAIʻI (March 9, 2020) — Today, Honolulu officially filed its lawsuit against the fossil fuel companies that misled the public about the connection between their products and the climate crisis, resulting in significant damage to public and private property and harm to people across the island of Oʻahu. Already, Honolulu faces over $13 billion in private infrastructure and land lost to 3 feet of sea level rise, and those costs will continue to rise in the near future.

In response, Lauren Watanabe, the Sierra Club Oʻahu Group’s Manager offered this response: 

This is a significant and brave step towards holding the bad actors in the climate crisis  accountable for the harm they are causing to the people of Oʻahu. 

This is a simple question of right and wrong. The biggest fossil fuel companies knew the true harm their products cause, and instead of fixing it they chose to lie about it for 50 years. This is no different than the lies the tobacco companies told people about the health of their products–an illegal act that they were held responsible for. Now it is time for these wealthy corporations to pay for the damage their lies caused to our island home. Honolulu is expecting over $28 billion in costs to protect its people from the mounting destruction of the climate crisis. Those costs should be paid for by the fossil fuel companies that lied for profit, not the hard-working taxpayers of Honolulu.

The Sierra Club commends the City & County of Honolulu for taking this bold action in the face of the climate crisis. 

Additional Information

Link to complaint filed today in the First Circuit Court of the State of Hawaiʻi: https://www.resilientoahu.org/honoluluvsfossilfuelcompanies

Link to the Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Study: https://www.soest.hawaii.edu/GG/FACULTY/ITO/GG740/Hawaii_state_Sealevel_Report.pdf

Star-Advertiser: New study doubles estimates of land vulnerable to sea level rise

By Timothy Hurley 

October 2, 2018

DENNIS ODA / 2015 Areas like King Street and Dillingham Boulevard in Liliha will be affected by rising sea levels when heavy rains hit.

Turns out future sea level rise in Hawaii may be a bigger problem than previously thought.

A team of researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the state Department of Land and Natural Resources found that island land affected by sea level rise may be double previous projections.

The study, published Thursday in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports, indicates that even some low-elevation areas a mile or two inland are vulnerable in a world of rising oceans caused by climate change.

Lead researcher Tiffany Anderson, a faculty member at the Department of Earth Sciences at the UH-Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, said, “A lot of areas will be affected. Losing beaches and access to them is really tragic for Hawaii and its culture.”

Early estimates about how a rising ocean would affect the islands were based on a “bathtub” approach in which a static sea surface is projected onto an unchanging terrain.

Charles “Chip” Fletcher, UH professor of geology and co-author of the the study, said this latest study is more realistic, factoring in additional processes, including chronic erosion and wave run-up, that can lead to more far-reaching and widespread flooding.

The bathtub approach alone ignores 35 to 54 percent of the land area exposed to one or more of the hazards, depending on location and sea level, Fletcher said.

The study also describes the discovery of a “critical point” at which marine flooding accelerates and reaches farther landward.

On Oahu, the critical point falls between 2 and 3 feet of sea level rise. At 2 feet of sea level rise, 6 square miles of the island will be affected by some kind of ocean flooding. At 3 feet of sea level rise, the affected area more than doubles to 12.5 square miles.

Especially vulnerable areas include Oahu’s low-lying south shore from Waikiki to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, and Ewa Beach.

Fletcher, associate dean of the UH-Manoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, said sea levels are expected to rise anywhere from 2 to 8 feet by the end of the century, depending on the behavior of the melting Antarctic ice sheet.

At the current rate of acceleration, he said, rising seas will reach more than 2 feet above present by the end of the century, which agrees with modeling by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2013. But that report makes it clear that rapid melting of Antarctica or Greenland is not considered, and since then several studies have identified a rising probability that glaciers in West Antarctica are engaged in rapid and irreversible retreat.

Earlier this summer a report found that Antarctic ice is melting three times faster than only 10 years ago. If these trends continue and worsen, 6 to 8 feet of sea level rise becomes a possibility by the end of the century.

Fletcher said coastal Oahu will increasingly experience the same kind of nuisance flooding that already plagues the streets of Mapunapuna and the coastal areas of South Florida, where millions of people are at risk.

The most vulnerable areas will experience flooding at high tide on a daily basis within only two or three decades. Summer high tides will cause the greatest amount of inundation, but other times of the year will see flooding as well. Coastal communities throughout the state will experience widespread coastal flooding from the run up of waves at least once to a few times each summer.

The Hawaii study took two years to complete with help from the UH-Manoa High Performance Computer Cluster. The computer was fed the topography of the land and sea floor, a model of mathematical equations, and it made calculations of the waves and erosion along the shoreline.

On Oahu, Maui and Kauai, calculations were made every 65 feet, with the number of calculations reaching into the thousands. Statewide calculations were made from more than 10,000 shoreline locations under four scenarios of future sea level rise.

The modeling presented in this study was conducted to support the Hawai‘i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report, which was completed in December to help with government planning.

Adopted by the Hawaii Climate Commission, the report projects climate change-driven sea level rise of 3.2 feet over the next 30 to 70 years.

The report forecasts a future of coastal flooding, erosion and property damage affecting hotels, businesses, malls, schools and community centers, as well as the displacement of thousands of people from their homes.

According to the report, potential impacts of 3.2 feet of sea level rise on Oahu alone include the loss of $12.9 billion in structures and land, 3,800 structures, including hotels in Waikiki, the displacement of 13,300 residents and the loss of 17.7 miles of major roads.

The latest study, titled “Modeling multiple sea level rise stresses reveals up to twice the land at risk compared to strictly passive flooding methods” is online and free to everyone.

“This study is important because we want to head into the future prepared and knowledgeable and ready to develop policies that are empirically based,” Fletcher said.

The study was supported by the DLNR, H.K.L. Castle Foundation, the U.S. Geological Service Pacific Islands Climate Adaptation Science Center, Honolulu Board of Water Supply, Honolulu Office of Climate Change Sustainability and Resiliency, Hawaii Community Foundation, County of Kauai and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

Anderson and team are currently incorporating rainfall into the computer model to determine how sea level-related flooding might be exacerbated during high-tide rainfall events.

To see how your neighborhood might be affected, go to pacioos.hawaii.edu/shoreline/slr-hawaii, which is an online mapping tool and companion to the Hawai‘i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report.


The potential impact of a 3.2-foot rise in sea level on Oahu would include:


Structures lost including hotels in Waikiki

$12.9 billion

Estimate value of structures and land lost


Number of residents displaced


Miles of major roads lost

Star-Advertiser: Red Hill fuel tank corrosion worse than expected


By Sophie Cocke 

Testing by the Navy on one of its massive underground fuel tanks at Red Hill suggests that tank corrosion at the facility is more extensive than it predicted, elevating concerns among Honolulu Board of Water Supply officials and environmentalists about the aging facility’s potential for leaks and the risk that poses to Oahu’s drinking water.

As part of an agreement with federal and state regulators, the Navy sampled 10 steel plates from one of its 20 tanks at the Red Hill Underground Fuel Storage Facility near Pearl Harbor. At least five of the plates, which measured 1-foot by 1-foot in size, showed considerable corrosion, according to the Board of Water Supply, which was briefed by the Navy on the findings. More troubling, parts of the tank’s original, quarter-inch-thick steel liner have become extremely thin and it appears the Navy overestimated the remaining thickness of some of the plates.

For instance, the Navy had anticipated the thickness of one steel plate to be between 0.135 to 0.187 inches. However, testing in June indicated that the remaining thickness was about half of that. The steel liner is the only thing separating the fuel from a release into the environment.

“The Navy’s predictions are so far off, and the corrosion is so far gone, that the risk of another significant leak, potentially catastrophic, is far more severe than previously thought,” said Marti Townsend, director for the Hawaii Sierra Club, in a press release. “Once the fuel escapes there is no way to get it back. It is irresponsible to continue the current course of action on these tanks.”

Townsend said the Navy needed to retire the tanks and relocate the fuel away from drinking water supplies.

Department of Health officials have said that fuel leaks, including a 27,000 gallon release at the facility in January 2014, are nearly impossible to clean up.

Officials have worried that past and future fuel leaks could migrate to an aquifer that supplies drinking water to residents from Moanalua to Hawaii Kai. The aquifer sits just 100 feet below the tanks. Fuel leaks also pose a risk to a nearby Navy well that supplies drinking water to about 65,000 people at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

If the aquifer is polluted by a major failure at one of the Red Hill tanks, the Navy’s own studies indicate the cleanup of the critical water supply could take decades or be cost prohibitive.

The corrosion testing is required as part of an agreement that the Navy entered into with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Hawaii Department of Health after the 2014 fuel release.

The Navy and regulators are also in the process of assessing six options for improving the tanks, including building new tanks, constructing a tank within a tank and double lining the tanks. The Navy informed regulators in August that it would likely be recommending the option that its own report described as involving “minimal changes to the status quo.” The corrosion testing is likely to increase pressure on the Navy to choose more aggressive tank protection options.

A plan for tank improvements will have to be approved by regulators who are expecting the Navy to take into account its corrosion study, as well as studies on leak- detection methods, in making its formal recommendation, which is due at the end of the year.

Ernie Lau, manager and chief engineer of the Board of Water Supply, said that the findings, which have not been released in a final report, raise concerns about the Navy’s current methods of inspection and repair of the tanks. The Board of Water Supply is urging the Navy to expand its corrosion sampling to more tanks.

The Navy didn’t respond directly to an emailed question from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser asking whether it would be willing to test for corrosion in additional tanks. Instead the Navy issued a news release, stating it would brief elected officials and regulators on the latest information during an annual state Senate task force meeting on Oct. 3.

The Navy stressed that the corrosion study is “ongoing and has not been completed,” with final results expected in late October and warned against making conclusions based on incomplete information.

“Ensuring tank integrity is the top priority and key to the exhaustive review approach we’ve agreed to,” said Lt. Cmdr. Blake Whittle, fuels director at Fleet Logistics Center Pearl Harbor, in the news release.

In recent years the Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency have spent $45.3 million to help identify the best alternative to improve the facility, while conducting groundwater studies, the Navy said. An additional $260 million has been spent since 2006 on maintaining and modernizing the facility and conducting environmental testing.

“We have not and will not rush to judgment or conclusions, and we will continue to keep the drinking water safe, no matter what,” said Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific. “There is much more work to do in studying, analyzing and then implementing all the right initiatives at Red Hill.”

Star Advertiser: Important map of ag lands is forwarded to City Council

By Gordon Y.K. Pang 

September 17, 2018

More than 45,000 acres on Oahu should be designated as important agricultural lands and required to stay that way in perpetuity under a new plan submitted by Mayor Kirk Caldwell to the Honolulu City Council.

It’s taken half a century to get this far. Now comes the hard part: getting something through the Council.

In the 1978 Constitutional Convention, voters ratified an amendment to the state Constitution that mandated that so-called important agricultural lands, or IAL, be identified and designated.

In return for their commitment to continued agricultural use, property owners are supposed to receive incentives from the state and city governments.

The 1,800 parcels identified in the Report on Oahu Important Agricultural Land Mapping Project represent about 12 percent of the island’s landmass.

Of Oahu’s 386,000 acres, roughly 128,000 (32 percent) are classified as agricultural, and about 12,300 already have IAL designation at the request of landowners.

A majority of the lands recommended for IAL status under the new plan are in Central Oahu (Mililani, Kunia and Wahiawa) and the North Shore (Haleiwa and Waialua), but there are also several large tracts along the Waianae Coast and the northeastern regions of Koolau Loa and Koolau Poko on the Windward side of the island.

The Council must act on the mayor’s plan, or its own version of it, and then submit it to the state Land Use Commission for a final decision.

Caldwell said community meetings held by the Department of Planning and Permitting across the island have been heated, and he expects that to continue. “People are wanting more or wanting less. Everyone seems to be upset one way or the other,” he said.

But Caldwell and DPP officials view it as imperative to finish the project and forward the city’s recommendations to the LUC.

“Agriculture has an important part on our island, not just the neighbor islands,” he said. “It’s about the long-term impacts — how do we remain resilient and sustainable, and how do we keep agriculture alive? Even if some of those lands aren’t farmed today, I believe sometime in the future if the economics change, they could become more viable for farming.”

Growing concern about climate change and sea-level rise have heightened the urgency to complete the study, said Josh Stanbro, Honolulu’s chief resiliency officer.

“Food security is one of the biggest challenges of climate change,” Stanbro said. “Increasingly, we’re seeing drought and extreme weather conditions hampering big global food production.”

Available water, sufficient labor and long-term availability of land are the biggest impediments facing local farmers, Stanbro said. By designating IAL properties, “this hopefully gives them the land base in the future to really farm on and put their roots out in and be able to invest for the long term because they’ll know the rug’s not going to be pulled from under their feet.”

However, some landowners strongly object to keeping their property designated agriculture in perpetuity.

“They don’t want to be designated because they want to have the ability to at some point to come in and change zoning in communities where they think they could build housing, and they’ve asked me to slow it down or to exclude their properties,” Caldwell said. “Some of it is really some of the best farmlands on Oahu, and we have not done that. So I’m sure they’ll be before the Council.”

David Arakawa, executive director of the landowner-backed Land Use Research Foundation and a member of the city’s technical advisory committee, said the situation is more nuanced than what Caldwell described, adding that he and others on the task force were surprised to learn through the Honolulu Star-Advertiser the Caldwell administration had finalized a plan, made it public and submitted it to the Council. Several LURF members have been in discussion with the mayor and city officials about which of their lands should be designated IAL, and they believed those talks were ongoing, he said.

At the very least, the committee should have been given the opportunity to review and make further suggestions on the final draft, he said.

He expressed concern that the city has not conducted surveys of the lands they propose to designate IAL and thus cannot be sure they meet the criteria for the designation.

“The city’s consultant primarily relied on technology (not actual site visits) to make its initial recommendations for IAL designations,” Arakawa said. That led to “inaccurate information and erroneous and unfair proposed IAL designations.”

The selection of IAL was “resource-based,” acting DPP Director Kathy Sokugawa said. “It didn’t matter who owned the land; it didn’t matter where the property lines were. We just went with the criteria.”

Initial designation was given to agricultural lands that met one or more of three top criteria: lands currently being used for agriculture; lands with enough available water for agriculture; and soil conditions conducive to agriculture.

Arakawa said committee members agree those are the most important criteria but believe water availability to be the most significant factor and an absolute requirement before lands can be designated as IAL.

LURF is also raising objections because the report submitted to the Council does not include landowner incentives as mandated by state law, Arakawa said.

“The county IAL designations can only take effect three years after incentives and protections for IAL and agricultural viability are enacted by the county,” Arakawa said. “The failure to enact IAL incentives could delay the county designation process for three years after the county enacts IAL incentives.”

Sokugawa said the city is looking at incentives and intends to submit a separate measure to the Council.

Because there are incentives already in place at both the state and city levels for standard agricultural use, it’s difficult for the city to find additional ones to provide those with lands designated IAL, Caldwell said.

Star-Advertiser: get people to polls on August 4th

Don’t squander precious right to vote — get people to polls
By Riley Johnson
July 19, 2018
On Aug. 4, the public will have the opportunity to rally at the state Capitol, in a newly created event called “People to the Polls,” and cast their votes in an election thought to be the most significant since November 2016. This election is important for several reasons dear to the people of Hawaii: women’s rights, immigration policy, health care, environmental protection, and more.
We have taken several steps backward in recent months. If we want progress, everyone in Hawaii who can vote should vote.
Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout of any state. Higher levels of civic engagement promote a better democracy as it is the most direct way to implement change. We have the opportunity to tell our elected officials exactly what we want done. Voting is the most important aspect of any democracy. If we fail to vote, we are failing to use the one of the most important methods of holding elected representatives accountable.
I, like many young people, wasn’t interested in politics. The narrative that voting doesn’t matter, or that it’s too inconvenient, stuck with me and my peers. It wasn’t until the 2016 presidential election that I started to take note of politics. The campaigns, complete with the 24-hour news cycle coverage, were flashy but devoid of change that would help my local community in Hawaii.
I was fortunate to find the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA), a nonpartisan group that fights for progressive values. An internship with the Kuleana Academy, workshops put on by HAPA to train aspiring candidates to run for office, taught me the importance of having honest and reliable people dedicated to bettering their communities in public office.
Campaign strategies and a variety of Hawaii-specific issues were discussed, instilling in me an even greater dedication to getting involved in the policy-making process. This ambition led me to spend a semester interning in Washington, D.C., where I was able to gain an inside perspective on policy-making at the federal level.
There I realized just how important every vote is. Every phone call, letter or email made to your local representative can make a difference when it comes time to make a decision. This past year should be a sign of why it is so important to vote.
While over 40 percent of Americans neglected to vote, we have witnessed thousands of children separated from their families on the U.S.-Mexico border, a Muslim travel ban, the abandonment of numerous multi-national agreements that foster economic and diplomatic relationships, and a withdrawal from the Paris agreement on addressing climate change.
On Aug. 4, this community can engage in the political process by attending “People to the Polls,” a new event hosted by Young Progressives Demanding Action (YPDA) and consisting of a march from Ala Moana Beach Park to the state Capitol. Participants will be able to attend the free event to register to vote and partake in early voting. A variety of advocacy and community organizations, such as the Sierra Club, will be present to educate the public about their issues.
“‘People to the Polls’ is an opportunity to show the public that civic participation in the democratic process can be fun and engaging,” said Will Caron, Social Justice Action Committee chairman for YPDA and lead organizer for the event. “When we come together to share an afternoon of food, fun and entertainment as a community, we can make democratic participation feel like a natural part of life in the islands.”
I hope to see my community with me on Aug. 4 to take charge of our own futures and hold our elected representatives accountable. It starts with exercising the precious, hard-won right to vote. Let’s not waste that right.

Mayor issues directive on climate change and sea level rise in response to report from Climate Change Commission

Mayor Caldwell was joined by Councilmembers Brandon Elefante, Carol Fukunaga, Joey Manahan and Kymberly Marcos Pine.

Honolulu — Today during a press conference, Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued a formal directive to all city departments and agencies to take action in order to address, minimize the risks from, and adapt to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise. The directive was issued in response to the Sea Level Rise Guidance and Climate Change Brief presented today to Mayor Caldwell and members of the City Council by leadership of the city’s Climate Change Commission.

The Mayor’s directive requires all city departments and agencies under the mayor’s jurisdiction to take several actions, including:

  • View climate change and the need for both climate change mitigation and adaptation as an urgent matter, and take a proactive approach in both reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protect and prepare the city for the physical and economic impacts of climate change;
  • Use the Sea Level Rise Guidance and Hawai‘i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report in their planning, programing, and capital improvement decisions to mitigate impacts to infrastructure and critical facilities subject to sea level rise, which may include elevation or relocation of infrastructure and critical facilities, the elevating of surfaces, structures, and utilities, and/or other adaptation measures;
  • Propose revisions to shoreline rules and regulations to incorporate sea level rise and conserve a natural, unarmored shoreline wherever possible; and
  • Work cooperatively to develop and implement land use policies, hazard mitigation actions, and design and construction standards that mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

In addition, the directive strongly encourages independent agencies, city-affiliated entities, and city-related institutions to help advance these efforts and adopt similar initiatives.

“I appreciate the hard work and professionalism of the Climate Change Commission in providing our administration and the City Council these thoughtful, science-based recommendations,” said Mayor Caldwell upon issuing directive 18-01. “This guidance confirms that climate change is the defining challenge to humanity — and to Oʻahu — in the 21st century. By issuing this directive, I want to ensure that every policy and project decision dealing with sea level rise going forward is made in the best interest of the public.”

In its Sea Level Rise Guidance, the commission emphasized that the city should be planning for high tide flooding associated with 3.2 feet of sea level rise by mid-century, and, because of continued high global carbon emissions, take into consideration 6 feet of sea level rise in later decades of the century, especially for critical infrastructure with long expected lifespans and low-risk tolerance. The sea level rise guidelines recommended by the commission are consistent with findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Based on scientific modeling of sea level rise impacts identified in the Hawai‘i Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report issued by the State of Hawaiʻi in December 2017, the Commission noted that:

  • Nearly 4,000 structures on Oʻahu—the vast majority being homes or businesses—will be chronically flooded with 3.2 feet of sea level rise;
  • Of the 9,400 acres of land located within the 3.2 foot sea level rise exposure area, over half is designated for urban land uses, making O‘ahu the most vulnerable of the Hawaiian islands;
  • With 3.2 feet of sea level rise, almost 18 miles of Oʻahu’s coastal roads will become impassible, jeopardizing access to and from many communities; and
  • Oʻahu has lost more than 5 miles of beaches to coastal erosion fronting seawalls and other shoreline armoring, with many more miles of beach certain to be lost with sea level rise if widespread armoring is allowed.

In an accompanying Climate Change Brief, an independent report that lays the foundation for the Sea Level Rise Guidance, the Climate Change Commission agreed with the overwhelming majority of international scientists that the world is currently on a pathway of warming more than 5.4oF above pre-industrial levels. They concluded this level of warming will be extremely dangerous to humanity, including rapid melting of ice sheets, extreme heating of the tropics, damaged marine and terrestrial ecosystems on which we rely for food and water, superstorms, and disrupted international economic networks. The commission warned that the climate is already shifting in this direction, and without dramatic, broad-based, and immediate cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions, the very worst impacts of climate change will become inevitable.

Specific to the City and County of Honolulu, the commission included in its detailed Sea Level Rise Guidance that rising seas will threaten Oʻahu communities and natural ecosystems in multiple ways, including: increased vulnerability to flooding; land loss and coastal erosion; saltwater intrusion into streams and coastal wetlands; and increased damage when hurricanes, tsunamis, and seasonal high waves strike. The commission further concluded that rising seas will negatively impact local communities, habitats, property, infrastructure, economies, and industry.

The commission, which carefully tracks a combination of international research and local modeling to underpin its decisions, also stressed that impacts from high tide flooding will arrive decades ahead of permanent inundation. Tidal flooding is projected to become more frequent and erode beaches, flood roads, and in times of rainfall bring local transportation to a standstill. According to modeling by NOAA, under their “Intermediate scenario,” flooding exceeding last year’s “king tide” level could be present an average of twice per month in Honolulu before mid-century.

“The voters of Oʻahu established this commission to advise city leadership because they can see first-hand that our climate is changing and we need to act,” said Josh Stanbro, chief resilience officer and executive director of the city’s Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency. “This directive will make us stronger and safer, and is an important additional step in our work to create a larger resilience strategy for the entire island of Oʻahu.”

“Coastal communities across the world are grappling with how to address rapid sea level rise due to climate change,” said Dr. Makena Coffman, chair of the Climate Change Commission. “The commissioners and I appreciate that our community has established a process by which science can directly inform decision-making. The city’s leadership has been proactive in understanding the scope of the problems that climate change will create for Hawaiʻi and changing policies to make us more resilient. Embracing the commission’s sea level rise guidance is another step in this direction.”

“As a scientist, father, and grandfather, I am grateful that Mayor Caldwell is acting with courage and speed on the commission’s recommendations,” said Dr. Charles Fletcher, vice chair of the Climate Change Commission. “I am extremely proud that in the City and County of Honolulu, and throughout the state of Hawai‘i, our leadership recognizes that every community must act immediately to reduce global carbon emissions, and to adapt to the climate change risks that are now inevitable. Unless the world joins us, we will all be facing severe and dire consequences.”

For a link to the directive, the letter from the Climate Change Commission to the mayor and City Council, the Sea Level Rise Guidance and Climate Change Brief, and other resources, click here.

Note: The Climate Change Commission, which consists of five members with expertise in climate change in Hawaiʻi, unanimously adopted its Sea Level Rise Guidance and Climate Change Brief on June 5. In accordance with the City Charter, the commission is charged with gathering the latest science and information on climate change impacts to Hawai‘i and providing advice and recommendations to the mayor, City Council, and executive departments as they look to draft policy and engage in planning for future climate scenarios.


Hiking through our half-century history at Wiliwilinui Ridge

One way that the Sierra Club of Hawai‘i is commemorating our 50th Anniversary is by hosting a series of “victory hikes” throughout the state, at least one per quarter by each group. This second quarter, the O‘ahu Group held its victory hike to Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail. The hike was led by Jean Fujikawa, an Outings leader of ten years who also works for the O‘ahu Invasive Species Committee, and guest speaker Reese Liggett, a former Outings Committee Chair and hike leader.

During our hike, Reese revealed how in 1995-1998 the Sierra Club championed efforts at the ‘Āina Haina Neighborhood Board, State Board of Land and Natural Resources, and Honolulu City Council to establish public access rules for the Wiliwilinui Ridge trail. Reese was the Outings Chair who helped coordinate this three-year effort, which resulted in the March 4,1998 Bureau of Conveyances Document No. 98-028929 issued by the City and signed by Mayor Jeremy Harris. This document prohibits the Waialae Iki V Community Association from requesting identification of hikers who want to enter the gated community to access Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail in the State’s Conservation District. Hikers driving through the security gate can now mention the state’s public access easement for the Ridge Trail and will be allowed to drive to the trailhead without having their ID’s scanned into the Waialae Iki V system.

Since 1998, O‘ahu Group Outings continues to lead hikes and service projects that improve the safety and accessibility of this trail. Outings leader Randy Ching pointed out the sections of trail that he and Ed Mersino maintained by installing new steps and water diversions. Some of the older steps were still painted with the “Sierra Club Hawai‘i Chapter” name, demonstrating how our work has stood the testament of time and thousands of hikers on this popular East O‘ahu trail.

Also joining the hike were members of the O‘ahu Group’s Executive Committee and several participants who were joining the Sierra Club for their very first hike. Our group of ten enjoyed a sunny day learning about this victory hike, discovering native and edible plants, and hiking into the clouds at the top of the ridge.

We encourage you to attend one or more of our victory hikes to join in our 50th anniversary celebration and learn about the club’s efforts and successes in building, protecting, preserving and improving special areas throughout the State. Our 3rd quarter victory hikes are published in our Mālama Newsletters and the online calendar – we hope to see you on the trails!

Steps installed by the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter

Group shot on the way up. Mahalo Jean and Reese for leading this victory hike!


Some of the steps that Randy and Ed installed to make the steep slope of the trail more manageable.


Beautiful views overlooking East O‘ahu as we transcended into the clouds.

Mayor Caldwell pledges continued support of solar energy as report ranks Honolulu #1 in nation

Honolulu – Mayor Kirk Caldwell has co-signed a public letter with the Mayors for Solar Energy to reiterate his support for clean, renewable energy (letter attached). The bipartisan group of 180 U.S. mayors, representing cities large and small in 42 states, resolve to make solar power a key element of their communities’ energy plans and call on others to embrace clean energy from the sun.

“Solar on thousands of homes and government buildings is helping Honolulu reach our sustainable energy goals,” said Mayor Caldwell. “We are on the front lines of sea level rise and other climate change effects and we must drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels. My administration is working to expedite permits for photovoltaic and battery storage systems and the results are clear.”

The move by mayors to promote solar power comes at a time when the federal administration is rolling back Obama-era policies aimed at reducing climate emissions and encouraging renewable energy.

“Oʻahu moved up to 21 percent renewable in 2017 from 19 percent the year before, and the lion’s share of that growth came from private rooftop solar installation,” said Josh Stanbro, the City and County of Honolulu’s Chief Resilience Officer. “Local governments and cities are leading on climate change policy right now, and our residents are also stepping in to help build a solar future from the ground up.”

The commitment from Mayor Caldwell to accelerate the transition to solar comes on the heels of a new report released by Environment America called “Shining Cities: How Smart Local Policies are Expanding Solar Power in America.” The report found that Honolulu ranks first in the nation for installed solar capacity per capita in the United States. Honolulu also jumped up to the No. 3 slot for total solar installed in a city. For a link to the Environment America report, click here.

“It is really exciting to see Honolulu rise in the rankings of volume of overall solar capacity,” said Aki Marceau of Elemental Excelerator, a nonprofit that has funded 35 clean energy, transportation, water, and agriculture projects with startups in Hawai‘i.  “Local businesses, utilities, and state and city agencies have stepped up to make this possible. We hope to see this kind of engagement with new, clean technologies beyond solar.”

In 2016, nearly 2,000 people were employed in solar jobs on Oʻahu, and solar permits issued in February 2018 on Oʻahu were 26 percent higher than the previous year – signaling the potential for expanded growth in the sector through 2018. Mayor Caldwell and the city’s Department of Planning and Permitting have been working with the renewable energy industry to streamline battery storage and photovoltaic (PV) approvals, which helped lead to the expansion.

William Giese, Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Solar Energy Association, lauded the commitment by Mayor Caldwell and pledged to continue to keep Honolulu at the top of the list. “The Hawaiʻi Solar Energy Association will continue to work with Mayor Caldwell and the City and County of Honolulu to bring more solar to Oʻahu, lower electric bills, increase customer choice, and drive Hawaiʻi towards 100 percent clean energy.”

While residents can save money with solar panels on their roof, the entire community benefits from increased renewable energy production.

“Cities everywhere should take steps to switch to solar energy,” said Emma Searson, Environment America’s Go Solar Campaign Coordinator. “By tapping into the power of the sun, cities can benefit from cleaner air and improved public health, while simultaneously tackling climate change.”