Sierra Club takes steps to support rail transit

Published: Jun. 29, 2012 at 6:46 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 29, 2012 at 9:34 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Sierra Club, one of the state's best known environmental groups, appears ready to back the city's $5.2 billion rail transit project in what would be a major victory for rail supporters.

Robert Harris, executive director of the Sierra Club said it's not a done deal yet and an official announcement could be made as early as next week.

A source told Hawaii News Now the Sierra Club's seven-member Oahu group voted unanimously to approve using the organization's money and efforts to campaign in favor of rail transit.  The vote came last Saturday after several hours of discussion, the source said.

Reached for comment, Harris confirmed the vote but said the final decision still must be made by the Sierra Club's 12-member state chapter executive committee and that decision should come in the next week or so.

By supporting Honolulu's rail project, the Sierra Club in Hawaii would simply be conforming to its own state and national policies, which support rail transit as an environmentally friendly way to move people around.

The Sierra Club surveyed its 4,000 members on Oahu about their feelings on transit but Harris said the organization will keep results of that survey confidential, because "it's an internal tool."  Another source said only a fraction of the organization's Oahu members returned the survey, so it's not statistically accurate.

The organization was planning to send a letter out to its members explaining the decision, a source said.  Some Sierra Club donors have threatened to stop donating money if the group takes a stand in support of rail transit, according to the source.

The Sierra Club's Hawaii chapter must now decide which candidate to endorse in the Honolulu mayor's race.

It's safe to assume the group will not back transit opponent Ben Cayetano, if it's campaigning for transit.

So the Sierra Club will have to endorse either incumbent Mayor Peter Carlisle or former Acting Mayor Kirk Caldwell, both of whom are rail transit supporters, unless it decides to make no endorsement.

Related Story:

Sierra Club reconsiders its stance on rail transit

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