Maui News

Maui County Plans Lawsuit Against Fossil Fuel Companies

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Maui Mayor Michael Victorino today announced his intent for Maui County to file a lawsuit against fossil fuel companies for what he called “mounting impacts of climate change and rising sea levels.”

“I am proud to say that Maui County stands at a point where we’re putting climate change as our number one priority… and all these other issues are going to be settled and we will make Maui County a better place for all of us to continue to live in,” said Mayor Victorino during a morning press conference.

The complaint alleges that fossil fuels are causing climate change impacts and are resulting in costs to taxpayers.

The mayor pointed toward a University of Hawaii Sea Grant Program study saying, West Maui is most at risk of economic loss from structures and land damaged by an anticipated sea level rise of 3.2 feet.

According to the study, West Maui damages are estimated at $1.9 billion. Other impacted areas: Kīhei-Mākena, $980.8 million; Wailuku-Kahului, $289.8 million; Molokaʻi, $284.8 million; Pāʻia-Haʻikū, $81 million; Hāna, $11.1 million; and Lānaʻi, $10 million.


“We all know that as you drive the Honoapiʻilani Highway, the waves are coming onto Olowalu… All that beach along Ukumehame used to stretch down 200-300 feet, now is 50 to 100 feet and the water is starting to traverse the road,” said Mayor Victorino.


The Mayor pointed towards drought, more frequent and severe heat waves, large brush fires, extreme rainfall and severe erosion as some of the impacts.

“For many, many years, global warming has been occurring and it continues to rise… sea level rise and other issues… rain bombs, hurricanes that have been more intense than ever before, massive fires… and if you look at California… Luckily, thank the good Lord, we’ve had no major structural damages or loss of life, but we cannot say the same for our friends and families in California.”

County officials estimate that brush fires on Maui have scorched about 23,000 acres so far this year–that’s six times more wildland than the approximately 4,000 acres that burned in all of 2018.


“This lawsuit is about accountability. Fossil fuel companies knew – their own experts warned them – about the potentially ‘severe’ or ‘catastrophic’ effects of doing business as usual, and the damage that could be caused by producing, marketing and selling their products,” said Mayor Victorino. “We believe that if we don’t take action now, we will be in a world of hurt in five to 10 years,” he said.

County officials say bringing the lawsuit involves the cooperation of the County Council to authorize retention of attorneys.  The Mayor, meantime, has vowed to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for what he calls “their share of industrial greenhouse gas pollution and environmental impacts” that he says will get worse in the years to come.

“Hopefully, this will be a start, to stop fossil fuel companies from what they have been doing for nearly 50 years–producing gas, oil and other products, including coal, which is really devastating to the environment, to the ozone layer and other parts of our world,” said Mayor Victorino.

A photo taken in July of ocean water from the King Tide flooding Honoapiilani Highway near Mile Marker 14 in Olowalu. (credit: Asa Ellison)

A photo taken in 2016 of coastal erosion at Kaanapali Beach Club in Honokowai (credit: Tara Owens)

Costal erosion. PC: Hawaii DLNR via County of Maui.

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino. (10.29.19) PC: by Wendy Osher


Maui Mayor Michael Victorino. (10.29.19) PC: by Wendy Osher

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