The Newell’s shearwater is a threatened species, and Hawaiian petrels and band-rumped storm petrels in Hawaiʻi are endangered species. Nearly all of the world’s Newell’s shearwaters (also known by the Hawaiian name ʻaʻo) nest on Kauaʻi. From 1993 to 2008, the Kauaʻi population of Newell’s shearwaters declined by 75 percent, in large part due to birds striking powerlines and becoming disoriented from the utility’s streetlights while flying at night.
On Kauaʻi, Earthjustice litigation helped persuade Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative to take steps to protect Hawaiian petrels, Newell’s shearwaters and other protected species of seabirds that die when colliding with powerlines and buildings. For decades, endangered Hawaiian petrels and threatened Newell’s shearwaters have been killed and injured by flying into powerlines and associated structures owned and operated by Kauaʻi Island Utility Cooperative. KIUC’s own estimate was that it killed nearly 200 listed seabirds per year, in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
On Maui, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund and Conservation Council for Hawaiʻi, represented by Earthjustice, brought suit to block the replacement of approximately 4,800 streetlight fixtures across the county with new light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures that emit a high amount of short-wavelength, blue-white light, which increases the risk of seabird fallout and sea turtle disorientation. A court ruled that Maui County violated the Hawaiʻi Environmental Policy Act (HEPA) by signing a contract committing $1.9 million toward the streetlights project without first considering the environmental impacts, and by hastily exempting the project from HEPA after installations began.