22 Groups demand governor withdraw DLNR appointment

Twenty-two environmental, Hawaiian and progressive organizations held  a press conference expressing opposition to the nomination of LURF director Carleton Ching to chair the DLNR. The press conference was held shortly before the beginning of Governor Ige’s State of the State address.

The Land Use Research Foundation (LURF) is an organization which is (in its own words) “the only Hawaii based organization devoted exclusively to promoting the interests of the development community, particularly in the areas of land use laws, regulations, and public policy.”

Anthony Aalto of Sierra Club and Marjorie Ziegler from the Conservation Council
Anthony Aalto of Sierra Club and Marjorie Ziegler from the Conservation Council of Hawaii with Henry Curtis of Life of the Land in the background. Photo credit: Bart Dame.

In an amazing reaction to last Fridays announcement of Ching’s appointment, this Monday the following organizations held a press conference to issue their statement of opposition.

HONOLULU, HAWAI’I (January 26, 2015) — Over a dozen environmental groups are asking the Governor to withdraw his nomination of Castle & Cooke lobbyist Carleton Ching to head the Department of Land and Natural Resources and to drop any plans to weaken or eliminate the Land Use Commission.

In a joint statement, the groups said:

We are extremely disappointed in Governor Ige’s openness to eliminating the State Land Use Commission. The Land Use Commission serves an essential role in the proper planning of land uses, developing land appropriately, and protecting public trust resources and the public interest. We question the motivation behind this proposal to dismantle the backbone of our state’s land use system.

We oppose the Governor’s choice of Carleton Ching to lead the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources and ask that the nomination be withdrawn because he has no demonstrated expertise in managing the cultural and natural resources that fall under the department’s purview, including but not limited to endangered species, iwi, ceded land, water resources, forests, beaches, coral reefs, fishing and hunting resources, historic sites, and state parks.

It is still early in Governor Ige’s term, and we urge him to make the proper course corrections for the benefit of our natural environment and the people of Hawai‘i nei. We look forward to working with him and his administration to make Hawai‘i a better place for all the people of these islands, our children, and generations to come.

Among the groups are:

Sierra Club, The Outdoor Circle, Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Hawai‘i’s Thousand Friends, Life of the Land, Friends of Lana‘i, Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i, Earthjustice, Defend O‘ahu Coalition, Surfrider Foundation, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund, Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action, Hui Ho‘omalu I Ka ‘Aina, Kupa‘a No Lana‘i, LOST FISH Coalition, MANA (Movement for Aloha No Ka ‘Aina), Maui Tomorrow, Puna Pono Alliance, Wailua-Kapa‘a Neighborhood Association, West Maui Preservation Association, and ‘Ilio’ulaokalani Coalition.

The Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources serves as the chair of its governing body (the Board of Land and Natural Resources), the Chair of the Commission on Water Resource Management, and as the state’s Historic Preservation Officer, in addition to overseeing many critical programs.

Marti Townsend, Executive Director of The Outdoor Circle urged the Governor to withdraw Ching’s nomination to head up DLNR citing Ching’s “lack of experience in protecting natural resources, which is the agency’s primary responsibility.”

The announcement of Ching’s appointment was buried in the Friday news dump.  It blew up on social media over the weekend resulting in a MoveOn.org petition that had over 4,000 signatures by Monday morning.

The question people are asking is, “Who is giving Governor Ing this bad advice?”

What is Ige's real goal for DLNR?

Did governor Ige appoint the appallingly bad Carleton Ching to head DLNR in order to sneak in an equally unacceptable first vice chair, Kekoa Kaluhiwa?  While voters are concentrating on blocking confirmation of Ching, will Kaluhiwa sail through without any hard questions as to his qualifications and connections?

We don’t know much about Kaluhiwa except that he is a lobbyist at Kuano’o Communications and Nevada registered GeoPolicy Group and has worked on the developer side of things.

We attempted to reach Kaluhiwa to ask about his developer clients but he is keeping a low profile and not responding.

With Ching almost certain not to be confirmed, is the real goal to put in an equally bad but not as well known lobbyist for developers?

Ige Appoints Developer to Head DLNR

In an inexplicable move, Gov. Ige replaced native Hawaiian William Aila with a Castle & Cooke developer as head of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Talk about putting the fox in charge of the hen house!

Carleton Ching acts as a lobbyist for developer Castle & Cooke.  In 2005 Ching was already advocating for weakening the Land Use Commission and “streamlining” the development approval proces according to the Star-Advertiser.  This is the man to head up the organization designed to protect the land?

Kekoa Kaluhiwa who has been appointed first deputy DLNR director is also a lobbyist at Kuano’o Communications and Nevada registered GeoPolicy Group.

We attempted to reach Kaluhiwa to ask if Castle & Cooke is one of his clients but did not receive a call back by publication time.

Be that as it may, exactly how are two lobbyists qualified to head up the most important agency in protecting our natural resources?

And just how good a job will a developer do to protect the land and water from inappropriate development?

The Sierra Club sued Castle & Cook over its controversial Koa Ridge development and the court ruled the Land Use Commission’s (LUC) approval of the project was not valid.  Oh what a coincidence:  Gov. Ige wants to reduce the influence of the Land Use Commission!

Castle & Cooke was one of the Big Five and has a history of exploitive acts which damage the water and land.  Before Dole Pineapple was spun off, their operations polluted aquifers on both Oahu and Lana’i with cancer-causing DBCP, TCP and EDP.  How ironic that their lobbyist will be in charge of the Water Commission now.

These appointments will go to the state senate for confirmation.  Hopefully they’ll be soundly rejected – not only because the candidates have no experience in running the most important state environmental agency but because they are actually antithetical to DLNR’s mission.

David Ige was elected on a swell of indignation over former Governor Abercrombie’s pro-developer actions.  As one irate former supporter said, “The honeymoon is over and Ige’s true priorities are revealed in these appointments.”

UPDATE: Carleton Ching is not only a lobbyist for Castle & Cooke, which converted productive Ag lands at Koa Ridge for development, he is also on the board of the Land Use Research Foundation (LURF) which according to their website (and history) is “devoted exclusively to promoting the interests of the development community, particularly in the areas of land use laws, regulations, and public policy.”

Ching is also on the board of the Building Industry Association.  Along with the Carpenters Union and the General Contractors Labor Association  they control the lobbying group, Forward Progress.  You will recall that Forward Progress attempted a coup on neighbor island councils to remove councilmembers who favored sensible planning rules.

With Ching’s nomination, the developers have hit the trifecta! A longtime key advocate for their interests  will be put in charge of Hawaii’s public natural resources unless the senate rejects this confirmation.

One reason Abercrombie’s approval rating tumbled was his Public Land Development Corporation (PLDC) which appeared to turn state government into an enabler of development interests.  Out of the frying pan into the fire with Gov Ige! Ching’s nomination skips the PLDC and puts the developers  directly in charge!