Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Will Superferry sue? That’s one way to make money

by Larry Geller

Who knows. After news of the Supreme Court verdict spread virally across the Internet, one of the next questions asked in the media is whether the ferry company might sue the state. Doug White, in a short article, points out that the environmental law itself could be changed, and that there are bills alive at the legislature that could be used for that purpose.

While Governor Lingle’s reaction has been extensively quoted in the media, it’s fair to keep in mind that the court verdict dashes what she might view as one of her greatest accomplishments. Although she might have been prepared for either a favorable or unfavorable verdict, still, this is probably not her last (or best) word on the subject.

Our Attorney General’s rep at the legislature is probably damaged more than Lingle’s. If fingers are to be pointed, Mark Bennett is a fair target for blame. I think it’s not likely that he will be able to convince the legislature to take a drastic move such as to gut Hawaii’s environmental laws for the sake of a ferry re-run.

I don’t think opponents will let that happen. The legislature needn’t try unless it wants to become a prime target, and if Lingle/Bennett do, they deserve the public reaction that they might get from newly energized opponents.

That Superferry employees will lose their jobs is indeed a tragedy. There is a re-frame on that issue also. Had the Superferry waited until an EIS was completed, not only might they be sailing today, but their employees would have jobs. So keep that in mind as the media blames activists and the courts for the job losses.

On the subject of a lawsuit, given that the Superferry was undoubtedly running at a loss most of the time, a lawsuit is one way to make a few bucks if they don’t care about ever coming back to Hawaii.

From the beginning, there has been the military transport motive lingering in the background like an unexorcised ghost. So, was the ferry company sincere in wanting to provide a passenger service over the long term in Hawaii, or did they simply want to enhance Austal’s chances at a lucrative military contract ? If the former, they still could do that, whether or not they sue, but suing wouldn’t be the best thing, would it.

A repentant ferry company willing to complete a full EIS at this point might win hearts and minds. The governor could try and work that out with them and end up a winner after all.


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