No back pedaling on 2491

SUBHEAD: Our Council is considering Bill 2491 precisely because the state has failed us time and time again.

By Jeri DiPietro on 12 October 2013 in Island Breath -

Image above: Last month the Mana March brought thousands to the Kauai's Old County Building to support Bill 2491regulating Pesticide/GMO operations. From (

A diverse cross-section of the Kauai community is preparing to convince the Kauai County Council to vote on Tuesday, October 15 on Bill 2491, the “Right to Know” bill.

Increased efforts and island-wide community actions will be launched by citizen groups in response to remarks made on Tuesday, October 8, by Mayor Bernard Carvalho.  In his remarks, the Mayor showed lack of knowledge of basic tenets of Bill 2491.  He asked the Council to defer a vote on the Bill, to give him more time to learn about the bill and work with the state Department of Agriculture for solutions.

Kauai families greeted the Mayor’s request with outrage and skepticism, pointing to previous testimonies by the state Department of Agriculture and other state employees that described the agency’s inability to enforce existing state pesticide regulations.

"Our Council is considering Bill 2491 on Kauai precisely because the state has failed us time and time again on the issue of pesticides,” said Bryce Boeder from west Kauai.

A recent article in Hawaii’sCivil Beat reported:
The state Department of Agriculture has only one employee assigned to review pesticide inspection reports and follow up on possible violations. And she says she hasn't gotten around to reviewing most reports in several years so there's been little if any action against pesticide misuse.  Since 2009, the department has suffered budget cuts that have stretched its pesticide oversight to the limit, its director says.

[T]he environmental health specialist in the agriculture department's pesticides branch . . . told Civil Beat last week she's been able to review only a handful of reports in the past few years.  She finished just seven of 72 investigations into possible violations on Kauai alone for 2011 and 2012.

The Mayor's reliance on enhanced state action grew even more implausible following Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui's announcement on Friday of a hiring freeze on state departments.

Any Council Deferral will be seen as back-pedaling
Many Council Members themselves have pointed to the State’s failure to protect Kauai residents in prior Council meetings re: Bill 2491.  After the Committee meeting on September 8, 2013, Civil Beat reported:
The state of Hawaii has effectively foresaken its responsibility to ensure that biotech companies are not risking public and environmental health, several members of the Kauai County Council said Monday, so it was up to the county to pick up the slack.

Basically, the state has done a bad job of enforcing landmark federal environmental laws, according to the councilmembers who spoke at a hearing on a bill before the council’s Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee that would increase regulation of genetically altered crops and pesticides.

This has many Kaua’i residents asking, “Why are we now talking AGAIN about the state stepping in to save us?”  Some believe it is another stall tactic encouraged by the lobbying organization Hawaii Crop Improvement Association (HCIA), whose members are the biotech companies which would be regulated under the Bill.

Elijah Frank, a local firefighter, for example, stated,
“It’s important that the public knows about the attempts by the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, and supported by the Department of Agriculture, to take away the rights of counties to protect the health and safety of their people.  Senate Bill 727, introduced last session, would have done just that. If passed, that law would have eliminated county authority to pass an ordinance like 2491. It was only stopped because the public caught on after it had already passed out of several committees.”
Frank, and the Kauai based group Ohana O’ Kauai, has been working on raising public awareness about Bill 2491 and was instrumental in defeating SB727.  But they expect the fight to continue;
“The overall agenda by the HCIA is to influence state decision-making, and cut out local government. And both the Department of Agriculture and the its Director, Russell Kokubun, have consistently supported HCIA and this type of legislation."
Frank believes it is highly questionable for the Council to set back the discussion to where it was months ago;
"The Council has already had in-depth correspondence with the departments of ag and health, and it was clear that these state agencies are not going to help Kauai's residents in any immediate or meaningful way."
West Kauai Residents Outraged
Other public response to a deferral has been strong and negative, especially from the people who would most benefit from the Bill’s provisions for disclosure and buffer zones.

Klayton Kubo, a long time Waimea resident who has been calling attention to the effects of pesticide and dust pollution on his neighborhood since at least 2000, stated;
 “It’s like coming full circle around.  After getting no help from the state, we finally thought the County would step up. Now, they are pointing to the state again?  For me, the question is, ‘WHO IS GOING TO PROTECT US?’  This is about my family, my neighbors, my neighbors’ kids, and all of Kaua’i.  Our elected officials should really think hard about this. Come the election next year, the people are going to remember.”
Nate Dickinson of Waimea said,
"My neighbors and I have been living with this for years. After being ignored by the seed companies, we are so close to finally getting some protections from our County government.  And now the Mayor and Council wants more time?  We need action NOW. This is urgent for those of us whose families live with the pesticide and dust drift every day."
Before the Mayor’s presentation, Hanapepe resident Lorna Cummings Poe testified to the Council that:
The health of many in our community is being compromised by pesticide spraying on thousands of acres on our tiny island. . . We cannot continue to ignore the fact these pesticides have harmed our reefs, salt beds and sealife that sustain our people. The protection, safety and health of people you are elected to serve is being compromised. 2491 has been watered down to favor the seed companies and not the health and welfare of Kauai’s people. . . . 
 Most of your so-called red shirts from the west side respect the close relationships we share with those who work for seed companies. They are our friends and family, too. There are hundreds of west siders that are supporters of 2491.


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