The eruption sent lava shooting into the air, along with a huge cloud of ash and steam. Hawaiian officials urged residents to stay indoors shortly after the eruption.
"Trade winds will push any embedded ash toward the Southwest. Fallout is likely in the Kau District in Wood Valley, Pahala, Naalehu and Ocean View. Stay indoors," an official from Civil Defense Agency tweeted, according to CNN.
However, the lava posed little risk to residents due to the eruption's location on Halemaumau within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the AP reported.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, (HVO) which monitors activity at Kilauea and its sister volcano Mauna Kea, issued a red aviation code alert after the initial eruption, but has since lowered it to an orange alert, meaning another significant eruption may still be possible.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) also reported a 4.4 magnitude earthquake that struck about an hour after the initial eruption. The USGS received more than 500 reports from people who felt the earthquake, but no major damage has been reported, according to the AP.
Kilauea last erupted in May 2018. That event involved a period of earthquakes and eruptions lasting for four months, creating lava flows that destroyed more than 700 homes, the AP reported.
The 2018 activity also caused Halemaumau's longtime lava lake to drain, according to the AP. In 2019, a new body of water was discovered in Kilauea's crater, leading to speculation about future eruptions, the New York Times found.
Jessica Ferracane, a Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman, told the AP that curious park spectators should take precautions. "There are high amounts of hazardous sulfur dioxide gas and particulates and those are billowing out of the crater right now and those present a danger to everyone, especially people with heart or respiratory problems, infants, young children and pregnant women."
HVO confirmed that Kilauea summit eruptions can last more than a decade, based on 200 years of tracking.
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A team of scientists has created the first-ever aerial map of the coral reefs surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands, in a breakthrough researchers hope will assist reef conservation in the islands and beyond.
The map, written up in a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences article Monday, was able to show the geographic distribution of live coral around the island chain at 16 meters (approximately 52 feet) of depth and also pinpoint where the corals were more or less impacted by human activity.
"Never before has there been such a detailed and synoptic view of live corals at this scale," study co-author Jamison Gove of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told ASU Now.
The research was led by the Arizona State University's (ASU) Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science (GDCS). The scientists sought to resolve several challenges with mapping coral reefs as they face unprecedented challenges.
Because of ocean acidification and coral bleaching caused by the climate crisis, as well as problems like runoff from coastal development, 75 percent of the world's coral reefs could face critical threats by 2050. But, in order to protect these reefs, it is important to know where they are. On-the-ground mapping is inherently limited in scope, while satellite images do not provide enough detail.
This is the problem GDCS researchers sought to solve with their Global Airborne Observatory. This is an airborne lab that combines two processes to create detailed maps, Courthouse News Service explained. These techniques are laser-guided imaging spectroscopy, which is often used to map complicated landscapes like forests, and artificial intelligence.
"We undertook this first-ever mapping of a large archipelago to determine where corals live in Hawaiian waters despite repeated heatwaves and problematic coastal development issues," lead study author and GDCS Director Greg Asner told ASU Now. "It's this basic information that is needed by partner organizations to drive more cost-effective protections, restoration activities, and public engagement."
Hawaii's reefs, like reefs worldwide, face major challenges. Marine heatwaves in 2015 and 2019 caused bleaching events, while coastal development and fishing have also harmed reefs through factors like pollution and sedimentation. The mapping found that on Oahu, for example, only 12 percent of the island's reefs still had live coral. There was likely three times as much living coral surrounding the island 200 years ago, Asner told Honolulu Civil Beat.
The study found that around 60 percent of the presence or absence of living coral could be explained water depth, wave power or coastal development. Overall, the biggest human impacts on Hawaii's coral were nearshore development, water quality, sea surface temperature and non-commercial fishing, in that order, Asner tweeted.
The distribution of live corals in the main Hawaiian Islands was determined by mapping and AI-driven analyses. In d… https://t.co/X8H6nIsmcj— Greg Asner (@Greg Asner)1607988030.0
But the mapping also turned up places, known as refugia, where coral proved to be resilient to human impacts, ASU Now reported. Asner told Honolulu Civil Beat that the map could be used to help policymakers determine which reefs, like the refugia, to protect; which areas would be ideal for restoration; and which were so degraded that perhaps it is not worth the effort to restore them given limited resources.
"Operational mapping of live coral cover within and across Hawaii's reef ecosystems affords opportunities for managers and policymakers to better address reef protection, resilience and restoration," study coauthor and head of Hawaii's Division of Aquatic Resources Brian Neilson told ASU Now. "With these new maps, we have a better shot at protecting what we have while focusing on where to improve conditions for corals and the myriad of species that depend upon corals."
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Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
By John R. Platt
It takes a lot of effort and more than a little bit of luck for researchers like André Raine to get to the remote mountaintops of Kauai, where they're working to save endangered Hawaiian seabirds from extinction.
First you need a helicopter capable of reaching sites more than 4,600 feet above sea level.
Then you need exactly the right weather to fly — and the hope that conditions don't shift, as they frequently do.
"The weather's not that great," said Raine, the project coordinator for the Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project. "We keep going and hanging out at the helipad, waiting and watching. And then it looks like it's going to be okay but it gets fogged in, or you get up there and then you get stuck. The joys of working in a remote, inaccessible area."
The seabirds — including Newell's shearwaters (Puffinus newelli) and Hawaiian petrels (Pterodroma sandwichensis) — obviously have a much easier time getting up the tops of these mountains.
Raine holding a Hawaiian petrel chick. Courtesy Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project
So, unfortunately, do several species of invasive predators — including feral cats, black rats and feral pigs — that have put these ground-nesting birds, and so many other native Hawaiian species, on the fast track toward extinction.
"People are always really surprised by this," Raine said, "but it doesn't matter how remote the area, or how apparently inhospitable it is to predators like cats. You're going to find cats and rats and pigs in these areas. There wasn't a single site that we work in that doesn't have all these predators, busy eating the birds."
An endangered chick in the mouth of a feral cat. Courtesy Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project
Like many island endemics, Hawaii's bird species grew up without mammalian predators, so they're ill-adapted to the teeth and claws that arrived with human society. The cats descended from housecats, while pigs escape from agricultural sites and rats descended from stowaways on ships.
That's why the Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project has spent the past nine years constructing fences and establishing other predator controls — work that is proving essential in giving these native birds a chance.
The first step in controlling predators is quantifying the threat.
According to a paper Raine and his colleagues published earlier this year in The Journal of Wildlife Management, introduced predators killed at least 309 endangered seabirds at six monitored breeding colonies between 2011 and 2017. That's quite a blow for each of these endangered species.
"Newell's shearwaters and Hawaiian petrels have suffered catastrophic declines over the last few decades," Raine said. "Any chick that's lost in the population is one that we can't afford to lose."
Hawaiian petrel. © Ken Chamberlain, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC). Via iNaturalist.
The researchers took on the sad task of collecting the dead and examining the wound patterns to determine which type of predator made the kill.
Rats, it turned out, killed the most — more than 50% of mortalities — usually from entering the birds' rocky burrows and eating eggs and chicks. That dramatically slows recovery efforts, but the research shows that adult birds who've lost their chicks returned to the same burrows the following year to try again.
Pigs kill fewer birds — about 10% of all tracked mortalities — but they were the most destructive, digging up and taking out entire nests. "It's literally like someone's taken a hand grenade and stuffed it down the burrow and blown it up," Raine said. "They just eat whatever's inside."
Cats were responsible for another 35% of known deaths, and Raine says the research shows those mortalities were the worst for the long-term health of the bird species. Cats target breeding birds, taking out not just the current generation but any hope of successive generations. The seabirds are very faithful to both their burrow sites and their mates, so if a cat takes out one parent the other might not breed again for several years, if at all. (Without predation, the researchers say an amazing 98.6% percent of breeding pairs matched up again and bred each year of the study.)
And while cats in general are the most destructive, some individual cats are downright scary.
"Every now and then, you get a sort of super cat, which is really good at finding burrows and killing the birds," he said.
In one incident recounted in the paper, the seabird recovery team found images of a cat taken by nine out of 30 remote cameras on the same day. Each camera was trained at a different seabird burrow — which provided ready meals for the feral feline.
"It just shows that all you need is for a cat to get into an area for a very short period," Raine said. "When the birds are sitting in a hole in the ground, they're entirely vulnerable to predation. The cat can very easily wipe out a huge number of birds."
Raine describes another incident as "quite horrific to watch." It took place at a remote site the team can only visit about once a month during breeding season, "because it's expensive and hard to get to," he said. They arrived one day to review the site's automatic cameras and the images revealed "this one cat just wreaking havoc across the site. It goes in and kills an adult Newell's shearwater, and they next thing you know it's emerging from the same burrow with four kittens. So it uses that burrow to raise the kittens, and then we get it on camera at another burrow with the kittens, basically training them how to kill more shearwaters."
That's a tough thing to see — especially when these researchers have followed the comings and goings at these burrows for years.
"You start to really empathize with these birds, because you're watching them on the burrow cameras and you're seeing all these amazing behaviors," Raine said. "And we're tracking them as well. We're seeing that they make these incredible journeys to feed their chicks. Hawaiian petrels go towards the coast of Alaska, 11-14,000 kilometers on a feeding voyage, and then you go to the site and you find this bird that's just been shredded by an introduced predator and the chicks left to starve to death. It's quite hard to deal with."
But as difficult and dangerous as these predators can be, the research also shows that the situation is far from hopeless.
Fence Me In
Over the past decade, the Kaua'i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project and its many organizational partners have concentrated on establishing predator controls at six of their seven regularly monitored seabird breeding sites.
Again, this isn't easy to accomplish in these remote, rarely visited locations. Materials must be flown in, ungulate-proof fences built, other traps set, and pig-hunting expeditions organized. All of it must be accomplished and maintained in precarious territory full of wet vegetation, narrow ridgelines and steep canyon walls.
To make things even more difficult, the human visitors must leave the habitat as undisturbed as possible.
"If you start making trails in these areas, then you're basically just opening them up to the hordes of predators that are out there," Raine says.
But the hard work pays off.
According to the paper, fences and other controls not only keep the invasive predators out, they give the birds the opportunity to thrive.
The research team used seven years data from the six sites, from before and after predator controls were established, and projected striking results for the future of the two seabird species.
The first model looked at what would happen to each site without predator controls. It was a disaster — mostly due to cats. "We ran that for 50 years, and we found that all of the colonies dwindle toward extinction."
The paper, in what Raine acknowledges as gallows humor, calls this the CATastrophe model.
The second modeling approach incorporated data from successful breeding that took place after more extensive predator controls (fences and traps) were put in place. "We found that the populations increased over those 50 years," Raine said. Under the model, which was based on 2017 population growth rates at sites with predator controls, most sites would see a 50-60% increase over the 50-year projection, while one site more than doubled.
"It really does show that if you remove the predators, the birds will begin to recover."
This isn't the be all and end all. Hawaiian seabirds face a laundry list of additional threats, including climate change, collisions with power lines, reduced fish populations at sea, and invasive plants that change forest compositions. The models don't address those threats, which also require mitigation.
There's also another introduced predator: barn owls. Hawaii introduced barn owls in the 1960s to control rats, but — as we've seen in so many other similar examples — they quickly became a new problem. Owls only killed 12 seabirds during the study, but Raine says these newest invaders pose an increasing threat that's proven harder to control. You can build fences to protect birds, after all, but you can't prevent other birds from flying over those protections.
But this research does prove that current management techniques to protect Hawaiian seabirds from their most pressing threats — cats, rats and pigs — really do work, and that they can be applied to more locations, even by private landowners who have birds on their properties. "Although we've got seven managed sites, there are other sites on the island where the birds are still hanging on, and there's no reason to expect that these techniques wouldn't be effective at other colonies."
That's important, because some of those additional sites are on the edge.
"We're finding that these other sites are just going silent," Raine said. "With no management on them, the birds just flit away." The paper recommends predator-proof fences at all sites, as well as dedicated year-round funding for both seabird monitoring efforts and predator-control operations designed to specifically target the composition of animals at each location. The authors also suggest additional port biosecurity to prevent more invasive species from arriving, and possibly the targeted use of landscape-level toxicants to remove rats and cats.
In addition, Raine says, these techniques can be applied to other species and other island locations where invasive predators threaten ground-nesting birds.
Perhaps most importantly, the research helps show these conservationists — whose work has continued as "essential" during the pandemic — that their efforts to fight extinction in these challenging, hard-to-reach habitats are paying off.
"I remember one of our sites in particular — in fact the one I was trying to get into today — the first time I went there I found within a five-foot area a burrow that had been predated by a cat, a dead chick that had been pulled out by a rat, and a burrow that had been destroyed by a pig," Raine recounted. "Now you can go a month without even seeing predators at some of these sites because of the great work that the controllers' crews are doing."
And this raises one more issue: this work isn't just about birds. It may help heal Hawaii — the extinction capital of the world — in the process.
"I think it's really important that people understand the critical importance of seabirds as the architects of the island itself," Raine said. "They bring all those ocean nutrients up into the mountains, and their partly responsible for the watersheds that we all rely on. It's a whole ecosystem that needs to be addressed."
Reposted with permission from The Revelator.
By Dana Drugmand
Hawaii has officially joined the fight to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the climate crisis. On Monday the City of Honolulu filed a lawsuit against 10 oil and gas companies, seeking monetary damages to help pay for costs associated with climate impacts like sea level rise and flooding.
The lawsuit, filed in Hawaii state court, is based on claims of nuisance, failure to warn, and trespass and alleges that the climate impacts facing the city stem from the oil companies' decades-long campaign to mislead policymakers and the public on the dangers of fossil fuels.
"For decades and decades the fossil fuel companies knew that the products they were selling would have tremendous damaging economic impacts for local governments, cities, and counties that our taxpayers are going to be forced to bear," Honolulu's chief resilience officer Josh Stanbro said at a press briefing outside the courthouse on Monday. "Instead of disclosing that information, they covered up the information, they promoted science that wasn't sound, and in the process have sowed confusion with the public, with regulators, and with local governments."
"This case is very similar to Big Tobacco lying about their products, as well as the pharmaceutical companies pushing an opioid epidemic," added Council Budget Chair Joey Manahan.
Over a dozen cities, counties, and states across the country have filed climate liability lawsuits against fossil fuel producers. Two federal judges have dismissed cases brought by Oakland/San Francisco and by New York City; the cities are appealing those decisions. Four other federal judges have sent climate cases brought by Rhode Island, Baltimore, and communities in Colorado and California back to state court where they were originally filed. The fossil fuel companies want the cases in federal court where they believe they have an easier path to dismissal.
Honolulu now joins these communities that are turning to the courts to hold Big Oil accountable.
"This case that was filed this morning is really about accountability," said Stanbro. "Someone has to hold accountable corporations that color outside the lines and don't play by the rules. The place to hold them accountable is in court."
Honolulu is already experiencing climate impacts including extreme heat and precipitation, severe storms and flooding, and coastal erosion. Last year was the hottest year on record for the city, and the warming trend is expected to continue. As cited in the complaint, Honolulu has already lost 25 percent of its beaches due to erosion and rising sea levels. And, as Department of Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura mentioned during the press briefing, the city experiences nuisance flooding caused by rising seas' extreme tidal influence.
"It's going to cost us billions to make our island more resilient," Manahan said during the briefing. "Sea level rise and climate change pose a great threat to our way of life, and our longstanding relationship with our island and our oceans."
The state has estimated that elevating roads alone could cost $15 billion. The island of Oahu has $12.9 billion in private property that is vulnerable to sea level rise.
"The costs are in the billions, and those billions should come from the profits, the billions and billions of dollars in profits that have been gained from the oil corporations," Stanbro said.
Calling climate liability lawsuits a "fringe litigation movement," Phil Goldberg, counsel for the Manufacturers' Accountability Project, a project of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), had critical words for Honolulu in a statement: "Honolulu's decision to move forward with litigation ignores the reality that these lawsuits have nothing to do with fighting climate change and will lead only to increased costs for local residents." NAM has received more than a million dollars from the oil industry trade group the American Petroleum Institute.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell initially announced the city's intent to sue oil companies in November 2019, on the heels of an announcement by Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino to do the same. The Maui County Council recently voted to approve Victorino's resolution to file a lawsuit, and Maui is expected to file its lawsuit soon.
The companies named as defendants in Honolulu's lawsuit include BP, BHP Group, Aloha Petroleum, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum, Royal Dutch Shell, and Sunoco.
Reposted with permission from DeSmog.
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By Brett Walton
Defying a vote of the County Council, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said on Oct.18 that he will not settle a Clean Water Act lawsuit that holds national implications for water pollution permitting.
Instead of the settlement that the council authorized last month, Victorino prefers to have the nation's highest court decide whether a wastewater treatment facility on the island requires a federal pollution permit for disposing its effluent. Currently injected underground, the nutrient-rich effluent eventually seeps into coastal waters where it has contributed to algal blooms around coral reefs.
The case is closely watched because it could determine whether pollution of groundwater that is connected to rivers, lakes and oceans is covered by the nation's primary water-protection law.
"There are strong opinions on both sides of this important issue," Victorino wrote in a statement that was posted online. "But leadership is not about making easy, popular decisions. I believe the best interests of our residents, our visitors, and the environment will be best served by having this case settled by the Supreme Court."
The politics within Maui County, however, are far from settled.
The council, believing that it has the power to authorize the settlement with the four conservation groups that brought the lawsuit, is preparing to vote on a resolution to ask a Hawaii state court to intervene. That vote will be taken on Oct. 29. If the resolution is approved, the state court will be asked to interpret the county charter to determine which branch — the mayor or the council — has authority to approve the settlement, David Raatz of the Maui County Office of Council Services told Circle of Blue.
Victorino's announcement and the council's potential counter move are the latest twists in a seven-year legal confrontation. The case centers around the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility, a wastewater treatment plant on the west side of Maui. The legal concept being tested is known as the conduit theory — whether a facility that discharges pollutants into groundwater that then flows to streams, lakes, or oceans requires a Clean Water Act permit.
If the concept is applied broadly to groundwater that is hydrologically linked to surface waters, it would expand the number of facilities that need federal pollution permits. Because of that, business and industry organizations such as the National Association of Home Builders, Chamber of Commerce, National Mining Association and American Petroleum Institute and municipal government groups like the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, City of New York, and National League of Cities filed briefs supporting Maui County.
During the Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sided with the conservation groups. But the agency recently changed course under President Trump. In a non-binding guidance document released in April, agency officials interpreted the Clean Water Act to "exclude all releases of pollutants to groundwater" from water pollution permitting.
Federal appeals courts are split. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the Lahaina facility does need a permit, supporting the conduit theory. A similar case in the Fourth Circuit has also been appealed to the Supreme Court. But the Sixth Circuit, in a case involving disposal of coal waste, came to the opposite conclusion. It determined that a permit for a coal ash pond in Kentucky was not necessary.
The Maui County Council voted 5 to 4 in September to settle the lawsuit brought by Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club, Surfrider, and West Maui Preservation Association. The upcoming vote presents a higher bar for approval. A two-thirds vote of the council is required to forward the complaint to the state court, Raatz said. Accordingly, a council member who voted against the settlement would have to flip their vote next week for the measure to pass.
If the settlement is not approved, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled is hear oral arguments in the case on November 6.
In his statement, Victorino suggested that he made his decision based on economics and legal clarity.
"This issue must be clarified once and for all, not re-litigated endlessly at county taxpayers' expense," Victorino wrote.
When asked for additional information, Brian Perry, the mayor's spokesperson, referred to the statement.
The settlement addresses legal clarity, as well as other issues. The county agreed to seek a federal pollution permit for the facility, invest at least $2.5 million in projects that recycle wastewater in order to reduce reliance on injection wells, and pay a $100,000 fine. The plaintiffs agreed not to pursue additional penalties or legal action as long as the country is making a "good faith effort" to fulfill its obligations.
David Henkin is the Earthjustice attorney representing the plaintiffs. He said that the groups are prepared to make their case to the Supreme Court.
"It's unfortunate that the Mayor has chosen to side with the Trump Administration and the nation's worst polluters, rather than listen to the will of the people of Maui, who spoke out overwhelmingly in favor of settling the case and focusing on addressing the harm the Lahaina injection wells are inflicting on Maui's priceless coral reef every day," Henkin wrote in an email to Circle of Blue.
Brett writes about agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and the politics and economics of water in the United States. He also writes the Federal Water Tap, Circle of Blue's weekly digest of U.S. government water news.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Circle of Blue.
By Lorraine Chow
Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.
"In the early 1900s, Joseph Rock, a famous botanist who worked in Hawaii, said kokios were in no threat of extinction because of cattle and other ungulates," Josh VanDeMark, a Hawaiian plant expert, told Truthout. "By the 1980s, the population dropped down to only a couple dozen individuals. Today, there are only seven mature individuals known that are wild."
Certainly, in a state dubbed the "extinction capital of the world," the Plant Extinction Prevention Program's (PEPP) mission feels Sisyphean. Due to its long history of extreme isolation and climatic conditions, Hawaii is home to some of the richest varieties of flora and fauna on Earth. But the arrival of humans and rapid development exposed indigenous species to predators, diseases and invasive species of which they were not evolved to withstand. Hawaii now claims 44 percent of the total endangered and threatened plant species in the U.S.
What's more, PEPP's $1.1 million-a-year budget has been supported by state and federal funds and grants, as well as public and private donations. But this year, due to the "current challenging fiscal climate," the program is operating on a shoestring budget reflecting "70 percent funding reduction," the group states on its website.
"Those kinds of things can set us back. We're still going even though we lost a lot of our funding over the past couple of years. We're still going, but at a reduced capacity," VanDeMark said. "But for some of these species, they just don't have the time. They need 10 times the resources that are available and they need it right now."
It goes without saying that we need plants. Plant ecologist Doria Gordon, a lead senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund and a conservationist for the last 30 years, helped list many of the reasons why: They provide food, clothing, shelter, medicine and oxygen. They host and nourish a vast number of species, such as insects, birds, mammals, fungi and lichens. Their roots are central to soil health, control erosion and improve water quality. Through photosynthesis, plants absorb the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere, making them a natural and crucial carbon sink. Their beauty supports our economy and nurtures our well-being. They inspire, they give life, and so much more.
"So it means that they are really vital for everything we do, for everything in our lives," Gordon said. "And even though animals are more charismatic and get more attention from the public, if we don't pay attention to the plants, we won't survive."
Not only that, four out of five Americans support the goals of the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which is aimed at preventing the extinction of imperiled plants and animals. This amount of support has not wavered for the last two decades.
Yet, a lot of Earth's flora is at risk of vanishing completely. More than 20 percent of the world's known plant species, or one in five, are threatened with extinction, a 2016 study by experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London found.
Gordon, who was not involved in the study, said that unless we take dramatic action, that figure is "unlikely to improve" due to the continued stresses that all of the world's species, including humans, are facing.
Some of the biggest threats identified in the Kew study include agricultural destruction (such as livestock farming and palm oil production); biological resource use (logging, gathering terrestrial plants); residential and commercial development; and invasive and problematic species. Climate change is also a growing threat.
"We're only slowly learning both the potential scope and the degree of threat [of climate change], but there are changes we can see now," Gordon said. For instance, she said, extreme events in temperature and precipitation are pushing the environmental tolerance of plants.
"We were seeing daffodils starting to come up in the D.C. area, and then, of course, we had massive snow and sleet [in February]," Gordon explained. Sudden weather changes not only harm the sensitive tissue of the daffodils, but over the long term, this disruption could also throw pollinators out of sync with the flowers they pollinate, which can then impact plant populations.
So, what can be done? Importantly, we must urge our representatives and lawmakers to protect threatened and endangered plants from extinction by defending and strengthening the Endangered Species Act.
Take Kokia drynarioides, the lonely Hawaiian tree. Although it has lost most of its former habitat, because it is federally listed as endangered, "a fair amount of work" has been done to plant the tree in protected areas, according to VanDeMark.
You can also advocate, donate and volunteer with conservation programs to help endangered plant species survive. We also need to support private and public landowners who are protecting swaths of native plant habitat and ensure those lands are properly maintained, Gordon advised.
"At the same time, obviously, climate change is a big looming specter," she added. "We all have individual roles to play, and [we should] encourage our elected officials to follow policies that reduce emissions."
Plants are all around us, so we often take them for granted or tend to forget about their importance. But for the thousands of species at risk of extinction, we must act now before they're gone forever.
"We're always asking ourselves: 'Why are we even trying?'" VanDeMark joked.
But for the PEPP team, the cause is simply much greater than themselves. "To me, a lot of these plants are very important culturally, and they're a part of the story of this place. These plants were here for millions of years before any humans arrived in Hawaii," VanDeMark said. "Just like any other place in the world has a unique story of their own plants and animals. Personally, I feel those stories are more important to humans than we fully appreciate."
Note: In July, then-statewide PEPP Manager Joan Yoshioka told Truthout that PEPP will be further integrated into the state system by district as a cost-saving measure. Yoshioka, who stepped down from her role as manager on August 1 as a result of this transition, said in an email that "the state will take on more of the management responsibilities of the program with a medium-term commitment to make PEPP a fully funded state program."
Lorraine Chow is a freelance environmental journalist based in South Carolina.
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By Kaitlin Grable
I was born on the island of O'ahu, 98 years after the U.S. supported an illegal coup in my hometown of Honolulu to overthrow Queen Liliuokalani and steal Hawaiian land. I was born in a Hawai'i that is radically and tragically different from the Hawai'i of my ancestors.
The Hawaiian word for land is 'aina. This word literally translates to "that which feeds us," which is a beautiful way to describe the sacred kinship that not just Hawaiians, but we all have with the land. It nourishes, it feeds, it gives life and after life it is into the land we return.
But in Hawai’i the continued legacies of colonialism and imperialism are destroying our ‘aina.
Countless Hawaiian sacred sites have been bulldozed, dismantled, developed and even used for military target practice.
Many Kanaka (Indigenous Hawaiians) are passionately fighting to raise awareness about the injustices they face, such as racism and displacement, while seeking to gain back control of their land. And right now, the world is watching as Hawaiians, both Indigenous Kanaka and non-Indigenous Kama'aina, are taking a stand against scientific imperialism in the form of the Thirty Meter Telescope.
These protectors, the Ku Kia'i Mauna, have been steadfast in their presence, creating blockades with their own bodies to prevent road access for weeks now.
To the Kanaka Maoli, Mauna Kea is the most sacred place. It is the tallest mountain in Hawai'i, and the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its bottom on the seafloor of the Pacific all the way to its peak. It is the birthplace of Hawaiian cosmology and the center of the Hawaiian universe, the meeting place of Earth Mother Papahānaumoku and Sky Father Wākea. Historically, only Hawaiian chiefs and religious leaders were permitted to ascend to the Mauna peak.
But this is about so much more than the desecration of sacred lands. This is about dismantling the systems of colonialism and imperialism that have destroyed and exploited our precious natural resources, and continue to do so with no regard for people or planet.
Hulali Kau, a writer and advocate working in Native Hawaiian and environmental law, said it best:
"To anyone that continues to try to frame TMT as a science versus culture argument, I would say that this struggle over the future of Mauna Kea is actually about how we manage resources and align our laws and values of Hawaii to connect a past where the state has subjected its Indigenous people to continued mismanagement of it lands with its uncertain future."
There are many people who ask, "Why now? There are 13 telescopes up there. Why not one more?"
Beyond the fact that this is sacred Indigenous land, let's lay out the facts:
- The UN requires Indigenous communities to give their "Free, Prior, and Informed Consent" before construction can begin on their land. This was an agreement to which 144 nations signed on. Only four did not, one being the U.S., because this nation has no regard for Indigenous rights or lands.
- Mauna Kea is home to the largest aquifer in Hawai'i, which would be threatened by development of the TMT.
- Mauna Kea is a habitat for native and endangered plants and wildlife, which are being further threatened by increased development.
- The University of Hawai'i has poorly managed the land, resulting in damage and pollution on the Mauna. In 2017, a lawsuit against the state and university was filed, in its arguments the agency filing brought up the results of several audits of the mountain which suggested that there have been "adverse" cultural, archaeological, historical and natural resource impacts on Mauna Kea since the first telescopes began being built.
- There is a viable alternative spot for consideration, on the La Palma island in the Canary Islands, which is not stolen, sacred land.
I moved away from my Hawaiian homelands at a young age, but the spirit of Aloha has only grown stronger in me. And though I now live on the opposite end of the country, I am standing firmly with my friends and family on the Mauna. This isn't just their fight, this is all of ours. We must be united for this cause.
Mahalo nui loa for your solidarity.
Until the last aloha 'aina.
Kaitlin Grable is the Social Media Associate for Greenpeace USA. She is currently based out of Durham, North Carolina on Eno and Occaneechi territory. You can peep her on Instagram @AroundTheWorldInKatyDays.
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
Last year, the volcano spewed lava and destroyed homes on the archipelago's Big Island. Then in the spring, a lava lake vanished from sight within the Halema'uma'u summit crater. Now, the lave is being replaced by a growing body of water that is likely rising from below, as the New York Times reported.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the pond was growing in a blog post. "We can now confirm the presence of water at the bottom of Halema'uma'u. [USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory] observers on the helicopter overflight saw reflections from the green pond — the 'smoking gun' for water," the blog post said. "The pond has clearly enlarged since the earliest photos on July 25."
"The question is what does this mean in the evolution of the volcano?" USGS scientist emeritus Don Swanson said to the AP. He added that Halemaumau has never had water since written observations began in 1823, so the pond is unusual. However, oral tradition suggests there was water there around 1500 and then again around 1650, according to the New York Times.
While scientists do not know what will happen next, they do know that when when lava interacts with water it can cause explosive eruptions.
"I am a bit surprised that water could accumulate to make a lake at Kilauea because the rocks are so permeable," Michael Manga, professor of Earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an email to CNN. "I would have guessed that the lake water would drain."
Since the lave lake drained, the rocks are cool enough to allow water to exist as a liquid, but they are scorching hot. The water, acidified by escaping magmatic gas, is about 158 degrees Fahrenheit. It is flanked by several fumaroles, vents unleashing volcanic gas at temperatures as high as 392 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the New York Times.
Scientists are perplexed by the presence of water and can envision several different ways the water may affect Kilauea.
"Until we have a better understanding of where the water is coming from, it's difficult to forecast what could happen next," said Janet Babb, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, in an email to CNN.
She said it was likely that lava would return. In one scenario, if the lava rises through the water, the two could react violently and create explosions, especially if the water column is deep, which is not yet known.
"Water plus heat (from magma/lava) makes steam, and steam can expand tremendously, which can break up lava into small bits and hurl them into the air," Babb wrote to CNN. "However, there is no evidence that an explosion, under the current conditions, would increase risk to public safety (i.e., any explosion would be small)."
Swanson agreed with her assessment and noted that any imminent blasts will be confined to the crater itself. "There is a greater potential for explosions than we'd realized before," he said to the New York Times, "but this is not going to affect public safety."
And yet, Kilauea is a highly active volcano that alternates between explosive and effusive (slower, steady lava flows) periods. The presence of water means the next explosive period could result in a massive collapse of the crater floor, as CNN reported.
"Kīlauea remains an active volcano, and it will erupt again," the Geological Survey wrote in a report July 31. "Although we expect clear signs prior to the next eruption, the time frame of warning may be short."
‘It’s About Respecting a Culture’: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Visits Mauna Kea Protests to Lend Support
Native Hawaiians may be fighting to protect Mauna Kea from a giant telescope, but now they have a different kind of star power on their side. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, one of the world's highest-grossing actors, visited the protesters Wednesday to lend support, Hawaii News Now reported.
Johnson's visit occurred on the 10th day of protests as Native Hawaiians seek to block construction of a $1.4 billion, 18-story Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on the summit of Hawaii's highest mountain, which they consider sacred. Johnson, who is part Samoan, attended high school on Oahu, HuffPost reported.
"I wanted to come here and see our people and stand with them and support them," Johnson told reporters, as Hawaii News Now reported. "What I realized today, and obviously I've been following this for years now, is that it's bigger than a telescope. It's humanity. It's culture. It is the people of Polynesia who are willing to die here to protect this land. It's not about stopping progress. It's about respecting a culture."
Supporters of the telescope, which is backed by private companies and universities, say it will lead to discoveries about the nature of the universe. But opponents say it will desecrate Mauna Kea, which is both a sacred site for Native Hawaiians and a conservation area, HuffPost explained.
Protesters greeted the actor, who stayed for about an hour, with lei, chanting and hula performances, according to Hawaii News Now.
Johnson is also working on a film that highlights Native Hawaiian history. His Seven Bucks Productions company is making a movie about King Kamehameha the Great, who unified the Hawaiian islands in 1810. Johnson will star as the king, USA Today reported.
The Rock is the most famous person to visit the protests, which began July 15th. In one incident last week, 33 mostly elderly activists were arrested for blocking the road up the mountain.
"When things escalate to that emotional apex, that is a sign that something has to be done," Johnson said, as HuffPost reported. "To full charge ahead isn't the way to do it."
Johnson's visit also came the day after Hawaii Gov. David Ige passed responsibility for reaching a compromise to Big Island Mayor Harry Kim, Big Island Now reported.
"Today, I am asking Hawaiʻi County Mayor Harry Kim to coordinate both county and state efforts to peacefully attempt to reach common ground with the protectors of Mauna Kea and the broader community," Ige said in a statement explaining his decision. "Mayor Kim is closest to the situation and the impacts are greatest on the island he leads."
#TMT We both share the goal of achieving a resolution that is peaceful & satisfactory to as many as possible in the community. I support the vision he has widely articulated for #Maunakea as a beacon of hope & discovery for the world that brings us together rather than divides us— Governor David Ige (@GovHawaii) July 23, 2019
Ige also visited the protests for the first time Tuesday, Hawaii News Now reported further.
During his visit, Johnson called on state leaders to resolve the conflict.
"A greater leadership has to step in. There needs to be leadership with empathy," the actor said, as HuffPost reported.
By Jessica Corbett
A week after construction was scheduled to resume on a long-delayed $1.4 billion telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea — a dormant volcano on Hawaii's Big Island — thousands of Native Hawaiians who consider the mountain sacred continued to protest the planned observatory.
Explaining that the 13,796-foot mountain is considered home to Native Hawaiian deities, Kaho'okahi Kanuha — a leader of the kia'i, or protectors, who have set up camp on the mountain — told CNN Sunday that "it is without a doubt one of our most sacred places in all of Hawaii."
Kanuha said that Mauna Kea — considered by astronomers one of the best places in the world to observe the skies — already has been "desecrated" by 13 other telescopes and with the ongoing Indigenous-led movement against the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).
"This is our last stand. We are taking a stand not only to protect our mauna and aina — our land — who we have a genealogical connection to," Kanuha explained. "We are fighting to protect it because we know if we cannot stop this, there is not very much we can fight for or protect."
Pua Case, an Indigenous organizer and one of the Mauna Kea protectors, appeared on Democracy Now! Monday to discuss why thousands of Native Hawaiians and other critics of the project are protesting.
"For the last 10 years, we have held off the project of the building of an 18-story telescope on the top of our mountain, near the summit, on a pristine area called the northern plateau, over our water aquifer and the source of water for much of this island," said Case.
"We are making a stand as not just Native people and not just the local community, but really a worldwide community, because there are so many similarities," she added. "There are Native people everywhere around the world standing for their mountaintops, for their waters, for their land bases, their oceans, and their life ways. We are no different than them."
Mauna Kea is one of the most sacred mountains to the Hawaiian people. Scientists and investors are working to build a Thirty Meter Telescope atop it. But many Hawaiians haven't consented to the construction. We spoke to frontline kia'i (protectors) about why they're standing. pic.twitter.com/R4Z3kYe6vM— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 22, 2019
A project of the TMT International Observatory — a partnership between University of California and the California Institute of Technology, as well as institutions in Canada, China, India and Japan — the controversial telescope would be the largest in the Northern Hemisphere.
The protests against the telescope were triggered by Democratic Gov. David Ige's announcement on July 10 that an access road would be closed to transport equipment up the mountain.
Last Wednesday, after police in riot gear failed to clear protectors from the access road despite arresting 33 kūpuna — elders — and one caregiver, Ige issued an emergency proclamation that expanded law enforcement's power to close off parts of the mountain and manage protests.
On the mountain Sunday, activists "scheduled a variety of workshops and training sessions throughout the day," according to Honolulu's Star-Advertiser. "Some of those workshops were aimed at sharing Hawaiian culture, although others were meant for practicing 'nonviolent direct action' in the event that law officers showed up."
Ige raised concerns by sending some members of the National Guard to the mountain last week, but the governor has insisted they are focused on transportation and duties other than managing protests and that, as of Friday, he does not plan to call in any more troops.
Though the public is right now assured by @GovHawaii that Hawai‘i National Guard sent to #Maunakea are unarmed and will assist only with transportation and road closures, their presence creates a concern for civil rights...— ACLU of Hawaii (@acluhawaii) July 20, 2019
The demonstrations haven't been contained to the mountain or the Big Island. On Oahu, KHON 2 reported, about 2,000 people "marched two miles on Sunday from Fort DeRussy to the Honolulu zoo" to protest the telescope.
Solidarity actions have also popped up around the country, and as of press time, a Change.org petition demanding "the immediate halt to the construction of the TMT" was fewer than 1,000 signatures away from reaching its goal of 150,000.
More pics: https://t.co/T4qdoP3wfE#KuKiaiMauna - #ProtectMaunaKea Solidarity Action— Melissa Ponder (@melponder) July 22, 2019
Salish Coast (Lakewood, WA)
July 21, 2019
Sign this petition (Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation : The immediate halt to the construction of the TMT on Mauna Kea) https://t.co/bKpQPJyZ61 pic.twitter.com/LgPKRszsiH
An open letter that has been signed by astronomers doesn't explicitly denounce the project, but calls into question how the government and the partnership behind the telescope have handled opposition.
However, the letter does "call upon the astronomy community to recognize the broader historical context of this conflict, and to denounce the criminalization of the protectors on Mauna Kea" as well as "urge the TMT Collaboration and the government of Hawaii to desist from further arresting or charging protectors, and to remove military and law enforcement personnel from the summit."
On Monday morning, Democratic Lt. Gov. Josh Green became the highest ranking public official in the state to visit the mountain amid the protests. He told reporters, "I came here today to listen and to respect people."
"I'm here to make sure people are OK," said Green, a physician who arrived at Mauna Kea after an emergency room shift. "I'm not here for a political statement."
Green's visit came after Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim went to the access road over the weekend. Kim told a crowd there that "we all see different things, but I'll tell you how I feel: For the first time in my 80 years of life, I see a group of people finally coming together to feel proud of being who you are, because you are the most beautiful, warmest, givingest people on God's Earth."
Despite the local opposition, TMT International Observatory spokesperson Scott Ishikawa told Hawaii News Now on Sunday that "Mauna Kea continues to be the preferred site for TMT."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
A decade-long fight over the proposed construction of a giant telescope on a mountain considered sacred by some Native Hawaiians came to a head Wednesday when 33 elders were arrested for blocking the road to the summit, HuffPost Reported.
The most recent protests kicked off Monday, when construction on the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) was set to begin on Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island. Astronomers say the mountain is one of the best places in the world to get a clear view in an attempt to understand the origins of the universe. But some Native Hawaiians revere the mountain as sacred. It is both a place where important ancestors are buried, and a place believed to be an entrance point to heaven, CNN explained.
"We're losing all of the things that we're responsible for as Hawaiians," activist Walter Ritte, who was one of eight to chain himself to a grate on the access road Monday, told Hawaii News Now. "We're responsible for our oceans. We're responsible for our land. We're responsible for our future generations," he said. "We must win this battle," he added.
Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte is one of 8 people who have chained themselves to a grate on Mauna Kea Access Road i… https://t.co/BLSsoIBaW8— Hawaii News Now (@Hawaii News Now)1563211685.0
Ritte was one of the 33 arrested between around 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, Hawaii News Now reported. Most of them were kupuna, or elders.
"We're kupuna fighting for our families," Ranette Robinson, another of the arrested activists, said.
Hours after the arrests, Hawaii Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation to give authorities more "flexibility" to stop protesters from blocking construction.
"We are certainly committed to ensuring the project has access to the construction site," Ige said, as ABC News reported. "We've been patient in trying to allow the protesters to express their feelings about the project."
#Maunakea Our top priority is the safety and security of our communities and the TMT construction teams. This is a… https://t.co/AgilJXYtkm— Governor David Ige (@Governor David Ige)1563418647.0
Hawaii News Now estimated that 1,000 people were present at the demonstrations, while ABC News reported those numbers swelled to 2,000 after Wednesday's arrests.
Plans for the TMT were first announced 10 years ago, according to Hawaii News Now, and opponents have tried both direct and legal means of blocking it since then. HuffPost gave a brief run-down of some of them:
Protesters, who call themselves "protectors" of the mountain, disrupted a groundbreaking back in 2014. And police arrested more than 30 opponents the following year after they attempted to stop construction. Later that year, the Hawaii Supreme Court invalidated a construction permit, finding that the state Board of Land and Natural Resources violated due process when it approved the permit in 2011. Those behind the project were forced to apply for a new one.
Last year, the Hawaii Supreme Court declared the project's latest permit legal, according to ABC News. Opponents are, however, still fighting in court as well. Last week they filed a suit arguing that the telescope's builders must post a security bond equal in cost to construction before starting their work.
Not all Native Hawaiians oppose the project, however. Annette Reyes, who lives on the Big Island, said most important cultural traditions were not practiced on the summit.
"It's going to be out of sight, out of mind," she said, as ABC News reported.
The 13 observatories already located on the mountain have put work on hold during the protests.
"The safety of everyone on the mountain, (observatory staff), law enforcement and protesters is of paramount importance to us," East Asian Observatory Deputy Director Jessica Dempsey said in a statement to CNN.
In a case watched closely both by polluting industries and clean water advocates across the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take up an appeal of a Clean Water Act case out of Hawaii concerning treated sewage flowing into the Pacific Ocean from injection wells.
Last March, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Maui County has been violating the federal Clean Water Act since its Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility was first put into operation in the early 1980s. The Lahaina facility, which serves West Maui, injects 3 to 5 million gallons of treated sewage each day into groundwater that then transports the sewage to the ocean.
"We are confident the Supreme Court will agree with the appeals court that, when Congress passed the Clean Water Act to protect our nation's waters, it did not give polluters a loophole to use groundwater as a sewer to convey harmful pollutants into our oceans, lakes and rivers," said David Henkin, Earthjustice staff attorney based in Honolulu.
In 2011, a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-funded study used tracer dye to show conclusively that the Lahaina sewage flows with the groundwater into near-shore waters off Kahekili Beach, which is popular with local residents and tourists alike. Though treated, the sewage still contains a variety of contaminants, including excess nutrients that have been linked to algae blooms and are shown to damage coral reefs.
Four Maui community groups represented by Earthjustice—Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club-Maui Group, Surfrider Foundation and West Maui Preservation Association—sued the county in 2012, seeking to protect the sensitive coral reefs at Kahekili from harmful pollution. In 2017, the U.S. Geological Survey, the State of Hawaii's Division of Aquatic Resources, and other experts published a peer-reviewed study documenting the ongoing, serious harm to the reef at Kahekili associated with the Lahaina facility's discharges to the ocean.
Over the past four decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and states across the country have used their Clean Water Act authority to prevent a variety of industries—including wastewater treatment facilities, chemical plants, concentrated animal feeding operations, mines, and oil and gas waste-treatment facilities—from contaminating our nation's waters via groundwater. The final outcome of this case could determine whether the public will continue to be protected from these harmful polluting activities.