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Governor taps state lawmaker for top environmental position

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 3:18 p.m. HST, Mar 6, 2014

State Rep. Jessica Wooley has been named as the new director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie appointed Wooley, an attorney known as an environmental advocate, to the post on Thursday. The appointment is subject to state Senate confirmation.

Wooley (D, Kahaluu-Ahuimanu-Kaneohe), the chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee, was first elected in 2008. She defeated former House Majority Leader Pono Chong in a primary in 2012 after she and Chong were placed in the same district when boundaries were redrawn after the census.

"Jessica is knowledgeable and experienced in issues pertaining to the environment, water resources, agriculture and land use," Abercrombie said in a statement. "Her legal and public service background will be a great asset in protecting Hawaii's fragile environment. Her energy and commitment to the issues involved with the OEQC is a big plus for Hawaii."

The OEQC is responsibile for implementing the state's environmental impact statement law and rules. The office does not typically have a high profile, but has been drawn into fights over environmental protection.

Abercrombie withdrew his appointment of Genevieve Salmonson as OEQC director in October after it became apparent she would not be confirmed. Salmonson had served as OEQC director under Gov. Ben Cayetano and Gov. Linda Lingle, but was criticized for her involvement in the Lingle administration's exemption of $40 million in harbor improvements for Hawaii Superferry from environmental review.

Gary Hooser, Abercrombie previous choice for the OEQC, stepped down as director to run for Kauai County Council in 2012. Hooser, a former Kauai state senator, had clashed with some of Abercrombie's aides over environmental policy.

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