Democratic lawmakers who blamed the recent wildfires in Hawaii on climate change were largely silent in response to requests for comment when asked about evidence showing the state’s main power company is responsible.
Fox News Digital contacted five lawmakers — Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Cori Bush, D-Mo. — who were among the voices claiming the devastating fires were sparked by man-made global warming. While Khanna provided a response, the four other lawmakers ignored the requests noting Maui County, Hawaii, alleged in a lawsuit the fires were sparked by power lines.
“The lawsuit alleges that the Defendants acted negligently by failing to power down their electrical equipment despite a National Weather Service Red Flag Warning on August 7th,” Maui County said in a release announcing its lawsuit last week.
“The lawsuit further alleges [Hawaiian Electric Company’s (HECO)] energized and downed power lines ignited dry fuel such as grass and brush, causing the fires,” the announcement added. “The lawsuit also alleges failure to maintain the system and power grid, which caused the systemic failures starting three different fires on August 8th.”
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A wildfire burns in Kihei, Hawaii, on Aug. 9. (AP Photo/Ty O’Neil)
According to the county’s lawsuit, HECO and its subsidiaries, which supply Hawaii with most of its electricity, failed to follow protocol powering down live electrical equipment allowing downed power lines to spark multiple fires earlier this month. The fires have claimed the lives of at least 115 people, according to the latest figures, and hundreds more remain missing.
The county further stated in its lawsuit that HECO has a duty “to properly maintain and repair the electric transmission lines, and other equipment including utility poles associated with their transmission of electricity, and to keep vegetation properly trimmed and maintained so as to prevent contact with overhead power lines and other electric equipment.”
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However, before the lawsuit was filed and while the fires raged, Democrats were quick to blame climate change.
“This is devastating. This is a climate emergency,” Markey, an original sponsor of the Green New Deal, wrote in a post on X on Aug. 10. “I stand in solidarity with my friends and colleagues from Hawai’i — we must act fast, provide aid, and invest in a resilient and safe future.”
Green New Deal sponsor Sen. Ed Markey, right, said the Hawaii wildfires were part of a “climate emergency.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
“Heartbreaking fires in Hawaii! Scientists are clear that climate chaos wreaking havoc on ecosystems everywhere is the new norm,” Merkley said in a separate post. “We need to take action immediately or else it will get even worse.”
Durbin warned that the wildfires were a “devastating view of our planet as we fail to adequately address the climate crisis.”
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“My heart breaks hearing of the devastation in Maui,” Bush added. “The climate crisis is here and it’s killing people. It’s time for [Biden] to declare a climate emergency.”
Additionally, Khanna, who spearheaded a recent congressional investigation into Big Oil, called on President Biden to declare a “climate emergency” in response to the fires. In a statement Tuesday, he said he stood by his comment and explained dry weather made the fires harder to contain and allowed them to spread quickly.
“Hawaiian Electric’s negligence does not change the fact that hotter and dryer weather due to climate change allowed the wildfires to spread faster and do more damage,” Khanna told Fox News Digital. “I stand by my call.”
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said the fires proved President Biden should declare a climate emergency. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
In addition, experts have thrown cold water on claims that climate change triggered the Maui fires even before the lawsuit. Instead, they said the event was largely a result of years of poor forest and brush management, in addition to declining agriculture. Such conditions, they said, allow fires to spread rapidly and make fires harder to contain.
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“Blaming this on weather and climate is misleading,” said Clay Trauernicht, a University of Hawaii at Manoa professor and environmental management expert. “Hawai’i’s fire problem is due to the vast areas of unmanaged, nonnative grasslands from decades of declining agriculture.”
“These savannas now cover about a million acres across the main Hawaiian Islands, mostly the legacy of land clearing for plantation agriculture and ranching in the late 1800s/early 1900s,” he continued. “The transformation to savanna makes the landscape way more sensitive to bad ‘fire weather’ — hot, dry, windy conditions. It also means we get huge buildups of fuels during rainy periods.”