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Oral Argument before the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals–CAAP-14-0001033

CAAP-14-0001033, Wednesday, August 9, 2017, 9 a.m.

PELE DEFENSE FUND, a Hawai`i non-profit corporation, RALPH PALIKAPU DEDMAN, individually and as President of the Pele Defense Fund, TERRI L. NAPEAHI, JOHN JOSEPH GRIFFITHS, JR. and TAMMY KAAWA, Plaintiffs-Appellants, vs. DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES, DIVISION OF FORESTRY AND WILDLIFE, STATE OF HAWAI`I, Defendants-Appellees

The above-captioned case has been set for argument on the merits at:

Supreme Court Courtroom
Aliʻiolani Hale, 2nd Floor
417 South King Street
Honolulu, HI 96813

Attorney for Plaintiffs-Appellants:

James M. Dombroski

Attorneys for Defendants-Appellees:

William J. Wynhoff and Colin J. Lau, Deputy Attorneys

COURT: Fujise, Reifurth, and Ginoza, JJ.

[ Listen to the entire audio recording in mp3 format ]

Brief Description:
 Plaintiffs-Appellants Pele Defense Fund, Ralph Palikapu Dedman, Terri L. Napeahi, and John Joseph Griffiths, Jr. (collectively PDF), appeal from an Amended Final Judgment entered by the Circuit Court of the Third Circuit in favor of Defendant-Appellee Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, State of Hawaiʻi (DLNR).  PDF filed a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief seeking to compel DLNR to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for its Kaʻū Forest Reserve Management Plan (Management Plan), pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes (HRS) Chapter 343.  DLNR had prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) and published a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).  The circuit court granted DLNR’s summary judgment motion and concluded that the EA and FONSI were sufficient under HRS Chapter 343.

On appeal, PDF contends that: (1) the circuit court erred by applying an incorrect standard in reviewing the EA and FONSI, and failed to acknowledge that the Management Plan may have significant effects on the environment; and (2) the circuit court erred when it failed to award attorney’s fees under HRS § 607-14.5 (2016) due to DLNR’s frivolous claim that the Management Plan was exempt from preparation of an EA.

In turn, DLNR contends that the standard for judicial review of an EA is whether, under an arbitrary and capricious standard, the agency has taken a hard look at environmental factors and reasonably set forth sufficient information to enable the decision-maker to make a reasoned decision.  DLNR thus asserts the circuit court properly granted summary judgment.  DLNR also asserts there were applicable exemptions for the Management Plan such that the circuit court properly denied PDF’s request for sanctions.