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Abercrombie withdraws Salmonson pick for Environmental Quality Control post

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Gov. Neil Abercrombie has withdrawn Genevieve Salmonson’s appointment as director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control after it appeared she would not be confirmed by the state Senate.

Environmental and community groups had opposed Salmonson’s nomination because of her role in the Lingle administration’s exemption of $40 million in harbor improvements for Hawaii Superferry from environmental review.

Louise Kim McCoy, the governor’s spokeswoman, said Salmonson had asked that her name be withdrawn because of personal reasons and that the governor “respects her wish to do so.”

Salmonson, who was director of the OEQC at the time of the exemption, was one of several state officials who had some oversight responsibility over the Superferry project. Environmentalists have argued that she should have insisted on an environmental review.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that the exemption for Superferry was an error. The court ruled in 2009 that alternative environmental review process adopted by the Legislature was also unconstitutional, and the Superferry soon ended operations in the islands.

Abercrombie’s aides had defended Salmonson as highly qualified and capable. She was first appointed as director of OEQC by Gov. Ben Cayetano in 1999 and served under Lingle until 2007.

Abercrombie appointed Salmonson in May as interim director of OEQC pending Senate confirmation. The Senate Energy and Environment Committee had scheduled a confirmation hearing for Salmonson for tomorrow morning, but several senators had said that her nomination was likely in trouble.

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