Senators Ask Tough Questions at Superferry Special Session

Sunny Greer
Sunny Greer
Jimmy Trujillo
Jimmy Trujillo
Richard Pohle
Richard Pohle

HAWAII STATE CAPITOL (KHNL) --  Hawaii's political lightning rod went back to the Capitol, as a special session convened on how to save the Hawaii Superferry.

For the ship, it's a last ditch effort.  For opponents, an important milestone in how environmental laws are applied in Hawaii.

Early Wednesday morning, both the House and the Senate held brief procedural sessions.  Then the Senate convened to hear testimony on the Superferry bill.

And that morning, some major players in the Superferry controversy testified, at times answering difficult questions from senators.

It was a long day, with testimony from three people taking up just the morning session.  As we saw in the Maui court proceeding, some strong opinions on both sides of the Superferry debate.

A row of senators could be the Hawaii Superferry's last hope.  This special session will determine if the ship can resume operations while an environmental review is  conducted.

Lawmakers asked some tough questions, knowing more than the fate of a company is at stake.

"The legislative branch is at the eye of the public right now because people vote for them," said Sunny Greer, a law student at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus.  "How they decide this issue will determine whether they'll be elected again in the next election."

The proposed Superferry bill would allow the ship to sail now, with some tough restrictions.  Environmental groups say that's not enough.

"The message is clear," said Jimmy Trujillo, a Superferry protestor from Kapaa, Kauai.  "EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) first.  From there, we'll all know what are the consequences."

But Superferry supporters say their voices should be heard as well.

"When you take away something that's progress, you don't know what you will lose," said Richard Pohle, a Superferry supporter from Kaneohe, Oahu.

The majority in the audience was pro-Superferry.  And so were written testimonies submitted to the legislature.

"So it just shows the depth and breadth of support throughout the state for this valuable alternative transportation mode," said Superferry CEO John Garibaldi.

While some see this as our legal system in action, others see it as a charade.

"So we have a situation where people on the outer islands feel like it's all being bullied through by the oahu delegation," said Lanny Sinkin, a Kauai lawyer.  "This is all for show."

However this show ends, this is the Superferry's last hope before the curtain comes down.

Already there is talk of amending the bill that would modify the Superferry's operating conditions.

Again, Superferry CEO John Garibaldi said this is his company's last hope to continue doing business in Hawaii.