Matson petitioned to cover all damage costs from molasses spill - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Matson petitioned to cover all damage costs from molasses spill

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The Sierra Club of Hawai'i has started an online petition demanding Matson cover all the damage costs associated with the massive molasses spill at Honolulu Harbor.

According to Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club of Hawai'i, within an hour it already had 300 plus signatures.

"It's important that we hold polluters accountable for the full scope of the damage caused just to make sure that these type of things never happen again," said Harris.

Last week, Matson's CEO and president, Matthew Cox, apologized to the people of Hawai'i.

"We've let you down and we're very sorry," said Cox, following a tour of the harbor.

Cox also vowed the company was taking full responsibility for the cleanup.

"Matson will cover the cost of this response, not the taxpayers," Cox said.

But Harris says that's not enough.

"There's obviously a difference between cleaning up and actually being accountable for all the damage caused. Matson caused unmitigated environmental disaster—they have to be held accountable for it.  They should be fully accountable for all the damages they caused," Harris explained.  

Harris says the petition will be presented to lawmakers to pressure them to call a hearing and ask Matson, under oath, to clearly define what they will pay for.

"With or without a petition, it's pretty obvious that people have a real concern that our harbors and our reefs and everything else are being impacted by this spill," said Representative Chris Lee, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

Rep. Lee says legislators have put their hearing plans on hold so that they won't get in the way of the Environmental Protection Agency's investigation.

"We don't want to jump the gun, but we want to make sure that the investigation plays itself out so that we get all the facts and then we can make an assessment as to what needs to happen," described Representative Lee.

Matson is aware of the petition and has released this statement: "Matson has taken responsibility for the cost of responding to the spill and will fully stand by this commitment.  In addition to such response costs, certain government agencies will conduct an assessment of damages that resulted from the incident.  Once that process is more clearly defined, Matson will be in a better position to address its role in that phase."

David Silva works in the harbor with boat bottom services, but says he hasn't been able to do anything for more than two weeks because of the spill.

"It used to be fish all around in here and now it's just like a ghost land.  There's nothing alive in here right now.   I'm still not seeing any fish in here or anything, so yeah, I think they should cover the long-term costs," said Silva.

Silva didn't know about the petition, but thinks it's a good idea.

"They're responsible for the spill, so they need to take care of their business.  They killed everything over here, so yeah, they should pay for it," Silva said.

Harris says it's difficult to put a number on the environmental damage caused, but marine biologists have indicated the coral reef in the area has been significantly harmed.  He says it's especially egregious that Matson hasn't agreed to cover all the costs associated with the damage caused by the oil spill, since it has recently been revealed officials were aware of the leaking pipe that pumped 233,000 gallons of molasses into the waters at Honolulu Harbor.

This wasn't a simple accident.  This is something that with proper foresight and a plan, this could've been prevented," Harris said.

Rep. Chris Lee agrees.

"You know, when I was growing up, I was taught that you break something, you fix it.  I think Matson stepped forward to put money into clean up, I think that we really want to ask them to make sure that they follow through and restore the area just the same," explained Rep. Lee.

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