Should Maui have an Environmental Court? Council Member Gladys Baisa agrees. As her council opponent, I disagree.
In 1986, as staff scientist for AVCO/AMOS on Haleakala, I helped win the competition for the laser Relay Mirror Experiment. This $100 million SDIO experiment upgraded AMOS and established the Air Force presence at the Research & Technology Park in Kihei. That presence facilitated nearly $1 billion of armed forces investment in Maui (infrastructure, supercomputer, office buildings, etc.) by Sen. Daniel Inouye.
The Sierra Club and (anti-war) PeaceMoves immediately sued to block the project: the former to protect the dark-rumped petrel and hoary bat (both on the endangered species list); the latter questioned eye safety. Both suits were eventually dismissed as specious (details on www.umla.ws), but they created considerable program cost, delay and anxiety on Maui. Significant delay would have sent RME to alternate sites in Florida or New Mexico.
If we had had an Environmental Court with a zealot judge, it is easy to imagine the lawsuit being split into two courts and an initial decision against RME. Although it would have been reversed on appeal, that delay could have cost us the R&T Park and development that we know today. To delay is to deny.