Today’s Advertiser and The Garden Island both are running the KIUC press release that downplays the stunning news that the U.S. Justice Department has indicted the utility on criminal charges for its role in killing Newell’s shearwaters, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
This is big stuff, so I’m disappointed the papers ran with a story based solely on KIUC’s spin. No other company in Hawaii has faced a similar indictment for violations of the ESA, so you know it’s not something the Justice Department is doing on a whim.
As for possible penalties, we’re talking fines of up to $50,000 per bird, and KIUC already has acknowledged that its power lines kill 87 adults per year, including breeding adults. Since chicks require the care of both parents to survive, their deaths constitute an incidental take. KIUC further estimated that its streetlights kill about 18 Newell’s fledglings each year. The law also provides for imprisonment of up to a year, which might be a better course, seeing as how some people seem only to care about how fines might affect their electric bills.
The disturbing comment section that followed The Advertiser's story, was prefaced by the admonishment: “You share in the honoluluadvertiser.com community, so please keep your comments smart and civil.”
Unfortunately, that didn’t deter folks from leaving comments that reflected a stunning ignorance of the law, the issue, the life history of Newell’s Shearwaters and the natural world. I especially liked the one that blasted “tree huggers” and noted:
Do they have ANY idea how expensive thier agenda is?
Oh, probably not as expensive as the agenda of big business. What do you suppose it will cost to deal with the fallout of the BP oil well explosion, seeing as how the spill has now entered the Gulf loop current and is headed for the Florida coast, and is looking to be way bigger than BP has thus far admitted? And who do you think will end up paying? As Democracy Now! reports:
Oil has already reached the fragile wetlands on the Louisiana coast. On Wednesday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said he had asked for intensified efforts to defend the coastline from incoming oil.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal: "We’ve got to be completely focused on defending this coast. The cost—the difference between keeping this oil out and having this oil in this wetlands, it literally could be life or death for many of these species."
At a congressional hearing Wednesday, a professor at Purdue University told lawmakers the oil spill may now be 95,000 barrels of oil, or four million gallons, per day—nineteen times BP’s estimate of 5,000 barrels a day.
To put the spew in some sort of perspective, Jan TenBruggencate published a thoughtful post that compares it to the 1998 Tesorio spill in the Islands.
But really, our obsession with dollars and cents skirts the true issue, which is how can you even begin to assess the value of entire species, intact ecosystems, a well functioning natural world?
Finally, today will be the last regular KKCR radio show for me. It’s been (mostly) fun, but I just don’t have time for it any more. Anyway, today my co-host Caren Diamond and I will be interviewing attorneys involved in the Larsen’s Beach case. We’ll also be discussing GMOs with Nancy Redfeather of Hawaii SEED and touching on other issues of local interest. So tune in from 4 to 6 pm. at FM 90.9, 91.9, 92.7 or kkcr.org.