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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Garibaldi: Lingle administration didn't require assessment

Advertiser Staff

John Garibaldi, Hawaii Superferry's president and chief executive officer, testified tonight that no one in the Lingle administration said that an environmental assessment was necessary before beginning operations.

"There was never a communication from them to us that an environmental assessment was needed," Garibaldi told state senators at a public hearing on the first day of a special legislative session.

He also repeated earlier statements that Hawaii Superferry has suffered significant financial losses by not operating following a Maui court order and voluntarily discontinuing service to Kaua'i.

"Our losses to date have been significant since we haven't had a revenue source over the last two months," Garibaldi said.

Garibaldi's statement is coming after a full day of testimony from people for and against a bill that would allow the Superferry to resume operations as state officials conduct an environmental review.

The hearing began around 10:50 a.m. and continued with questioning of Garibaldi past 5:45 p.m.

The hearing began with state Attorney General Mark Bennett testifying in favor of the bill.

Bennett cited previous cases and said it's not "unusual, nor unprecedented" for the Legislature to adopt bills in response to rulings by the Hawai'i Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court ruled in August that the Department of Transportation should conduct an environmental assessment on state-funded harbor improvements related to the Superferry.

Barry Fukunaga, director of the state Department of Transportation, followed Bennett in testifying in support of the bill.

He faced questioning by senators on how he made the decision in 2005 as then-deputy director to exempt the Superferry from an environmental review, among other topics.

Rod Haraga was then the department's director.

"I signed the decision and ... he (Haraga) concurred with that," Fukunaga said. "It was my decision but obviously he was the director at that time."