At the end of the night, it was a very good day.

Last night, after an exhausting 12 hour meeting, the Kauai County Council Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Sustainability voted 4 to 1 to amend and to pass out of committee Bill 2491. The full Council will now consider and vote on the amended Bill.  That Council meeting has yet to be scheduled but could occur within the next 7 to 10 days.

Was this a victory?  The answer is a resounding YES. 

Is this enough?  The answer is a resounding NO.

While I continue to review the details of the entire very comprehensive and complex amendment that was passed last night – it appears that 50% of the Bill survived the amendment process.

The key and heart and soul of the entire effort, “the right to know” disclosure provision was made even stronger than originally introduced. 

The disclosure provision is arguably the most important element of the Bill and is what the agrochemical companies are most concerned about – and this provision emerged from the process robust and strong.  The buffer zones are intact but need to be strengthened.  The EIS provision was converted into an alternative study but I believe will serve the purpose needed to determine health and environmental impacts of this industry.  The moratorium did not make the cut but interestingly the companies seem to be willing to sign an agreement limiting expansion.

Thank you to all who have worked so hard on this effort.  Yesterday’s outcome was a significant win but much work is needed to strengthen the Bill that now moves to the full Council. 

You can be sure that the industry pushback will be strong and swift.  It is likely we will hear from their lawyers again as they renew their effort to bully the County into submission.  It is also likely that there will be more press releases, more pronouncements’ from State government officials, more full page ads in the newspaper and more letters from the Chamber of Commerce.

Please let Council Members JoAnn Yukimura and Nadine Nakamura how much their work is appreciated in helping to pass Bill 2491.  Without their willingness to do the heavy lifting and writing of the amendments, this very important measure could have remained in limbo for a long, long time.  Tell them mahalo…and yes please tell them we need a stronger version that includes better buffer zones and a moratorium commitment that includes the entire island of Kauai.  Even though he is not on the Committee and was not able to vote last night, Bill 2491’s co-introducer Council Member Tim Bynum provided invaluable support during last nights deliberations and deserves a huge mahalo as well.

To be clear: Bill 2491 can be further amended during the full Council meeting that will be scheduled in the near future.  It can be made stronger or it can be made weaker during this meeting and this effort is not over until the full Council votes and the Mayor signs Bill 2491 into law.

 Imua! gh

Amendments:

1)      The core of the issue – “The Right To Know” was preserved and strengthened.  Should Bill 2491 pass out of the full Council in its present amended form companies will have to disclose to the world the chemicals they are using on our island.   They will have to tell us what pesticides they are using, how much they are using and where and when they used it.  And they will have to tell us what GMO crops they are growing as well.

2)      Buffer Zones – While I believe this section needs significant strengthening, the amended Bill includes buffer protection zones around schools, hospitals, homes and many other areas.  To be clear this section IMHO needs to be expanded and I am hopeful this can be done in the upcoming Council meeting.

3)      Health/Environmental Impact Study – The amended Bill requires the County to conduct a study following a comprehensive process designed to ensure the end product is comprehensive and includes the detailed medical and environmental data gathering and analysis required for solid future decision making.  While not following the 343 EIS process which I preferred and was outlined in the Bill, this is an alternative path to the same objective.

4)      Prohibition of open air testing of experimental pesticides and experimental GMO’s – These provisions were deleted and are not included in the “moving forward Bill 2491”. 

5)      Permitting – This provision was deleted.  I attempted unsuccessfully to retain this provision by amending the words “shall” to “may” and thus retaining the option of the County to implement permitting.  However, those introducing the amendments decided this provision could be passed into law at a future date, after the study was completed and if the study showed a specific need for permitting.

6)      Moratorium – This provision was deleted and was perhaps my biggest disappointment.  However apparently the 4 agrochemical companies are prepared to sign a written agreement that they will not expand their operations north of the Wailua River for a period of time that I believe was two years or until the County Health and Environmental study was completed.  While at first it may seem like a welcome offer to those who live on the north and east shore, this proposal is offensive and unacceptable – and must include the entire island.

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About garyhooser

I currently serve as an elected member of the Kauai County Council. In a past life I was a Hawaii State Senator and Majority Leader and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. How lucky? Watch "The Hooser Story" http://www.garyhooser.com/ and read my blog at http://www.garyhooser.wordpress.com/ “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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30 Responses to At the end of the night, it was a very good day.

  1. Jeffrey Vesci says:

    Thank you Gary,Tim, JoAnn and Nadine!

  2. Joan Conrow says:

    I’m glad to hear you acknowledging the work of Nadine and JoAnn. Without them this bill would not have passed regardless of how many people marched in the street. Hopefully future initiatives will be more collaborative from the start.

    • garyhooser says:

      Thank you Joan for also calling attention to the good work of CM Yukimura and Nakamura. As you are well aware nothing can move forward without support from the majority of any legislative body. I am thankful they saw the value of the three important provisions of Bill 2491 which they have chosen to amend and preserve in the process. I remain hopeful that other elements can also be strengthened and perhaps added back in as well. While the sunshine law is intended to prevent “backroom deals” it also grossly inhibits “collaboration” among council members…which is not a bad thing. In many ways it is better that a Bill like 2491 be presented, put on the table and then dealt with in the sunshine…rather than have 4 council members decide in a back room somewhere what was acceptable or not…and emerge from that room with a Bill such as the one now on the table. As ugly as it might seem to some…at least the public knows that a range of options was put on the table rather than jsut be presented when the deal was done and the collaborators were finished with their collaboration. And yes, I think voluntary compliance to a law is better than simply voluntary without a law. Most laws are “complaint driven”…most laws are written and implemented based on the theory that most people will comply voluntarily. Enforcement and fines etc are of course needed but are only in place to deal with the small percentage of people who knowingly and willingly violate the law. At least if there is a law in place, there is some legal remedy available. IMHO And FWIW…I think marching in the streets is a good thing and I think it made a difference. gh

      • Mae Pacifico says:

        Thank you for saying that Gary…marching in the street (in the thousands) was very telling. The island came together, united in peace, for the health and safety of our keiki over corporate greed and destruction. Also the implication about being more collaborative is insulting. How long does this posioning of paradise have to continue before something is done! You are a leader and you did the right thing, the right way. You are to be commended not insulted.

  3. judy walker nalda says:

    Thank you Gary and all who worked so hard to create, and strengthen and support this bill. Thank you for your tireless efforts on our behalf, Thank you for your courage.

  4. Nicolai Barca says:

    I also want to thank you Gary as well as Tim, JoAnn and Nadine. While I like or don’t like some of the amendments to the bill, I found it refreshing to see you guys talk through it. In my opinion, the amendments did far more good for this bill than bad. And while I might have my own slight differences in opinion, I think the bill is a good bill, reasonable, and passable. I’d support it, as amended.

    Tim Bynum’s presentation was great and I really liked his roadway buffer amendment. It was a clever trade-off: If they post signage, no road buffer (which in my opinion is probably the least important of all the buffers, in terms of mitigating any impact to health). If they spray so often that they need to post signage constantly (which may be a haste), well, maybe they should consider a different location. I also like how he used the state GIS mapping data to specify “perennial streams” as those needing buffers and specified that irrigation ditches not be included in the buffer. This probably alleviated a great deal of resistance from the ag community who thought they would have to give up large areas of land, potentially threatening their Job. Using the state GIS files is a specific, measurable, and enforceable solution to something that was originally ambiguous and controversial.

    And you guys were right about there being other ways to do pest control without chemicals. Perhaps this could open a door to large companies innovating natural-pest-control methods that utilize beneficial insects. Perhaps we can incentivize them (rather than punish) to refining those methods on Kauai by trying such things as setting small areas set aside to grow wildflowers attract beneficial insects, as well as providing pollen for bees. Then they could factor that into their IPM. I’d really like to see large corporations, with all their influence, be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. Punishment can work, but incentives also have their place.

  5. David Katz says:

    This is the only fan letter I’ve ever written to a political leader. I am amazed and impressed by your ability to remain respectful, kind, and tolerant of so many opponents of your efforts whose behavior would try the patience of a saint. I would have been sorely tempted, if I were in your shoes, to accuse many of your antagonists of dishonesty and/or stupidity. You were wiser than that, consistently and repeatedly. This proved to be not only a great human quality, but the most effective tactic. You are an inspiration to all of us.

    • Pat Hunter-Williams says:

      I second this! Maika’i no, Gary. Mahalo nui loa. Imua.

    • albert mitchell says:

      “respectful, kind, and tolerant” Did you not see his statement that any who disagreed with him will be blocked. I for one am very disappointed with the representation provided by someone I Voted for in past elections, this will not be the case in future elections.

      • garyhooser says:

        Albert – the comment you are referring to I believe was from my personal facebook page where I essentially said “I was having a busy day and that I was not interested in debating or having to screen out snarky or rude comments…and that I would block anyone who wanted to go there”. My personal facebook page is for my friends to comment, not my enemies. Facebook in general is a valuable communications tool but too often lately it is being trolled by those who are trying to make a name for themselves on facebook and just want to take shots at me and others for the positions and values we hold. I don’t need this to happen on my personal facebook page and I don’t have time to be the high school monitor, always having to watch to see what people post. There are plenty of other online fb pages and blogs where people can do this, I just don’t want it done on my home page. If you or anyone else would like to debate me on this or any issue, I would be more than pleased to find a time and a location in which to do so. The last debate that was scheduled by PBS Hawaii between myself and the GMO industry, was cancelled because the industry guys cancelled just a few hours before it was scheduled to go on. So far, the industry has refused to reschedule…trading comments on facebook with anonymous trolls is not a debate and I will continue to block them from both my facebook page and this blog should they make inappropriate comments or pursue a strategy based on just trying to incite and stir things up.

    • Elsa Flores Almaraz says:

      YES, BIG LOVE AND RESPECT FOR YOUR MANA’O GARY IN HOLDING SPACE IN THIS ARDUOUS PROCESS WITH SUCH INTEGRITY, GRACE AND OBVIOUS COMMITMENT TO THE KULIANA OF YOUR OATH IN PRESERVING THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF OUR SACRED ‘AINA AND HER PEOPLE INCLUDING THE FINNED, FEATHERED, WINGED, FURRED, SCALED, CREEPY CRAWLERS AND THE CETACEAN NATION~ MAHALO MAHALO WITH SO MUCH ALOHA TO YOU, JOANN, NADINE, AND TIM FOR YOUR DILIGENT WORK TOWARDS TAKING A VERY BIG STEP IN PROTECTING OUR MOST PRECIOUS RESOURCE. AND MAHALO TO THIS ISLAND OHANA WHO LOVE MAMA KAUAI SO DEARLY. LET’S NOW SWIRL INTO THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PURPLE ON THE PLANET~ MALAMA ‘AINA, MALAMA KE KAI, MALAMA PONO, A MAMA UA NOA~! IMUA~

  6. jonathan jay says:

    when dealing with roadside buffers, please do not forget about BUS STOPS. People do not merely pass through at 50mph at BUS STOPS. We are forced to wait, sometimes for up to an hour. Would you want to sit there waiting for a bus you need to take to get to work, or school or to get home staring at a sign that ‘empowers’ you with the knowledge of what you are being dosed with? Not me. Please include BUS STOPS on road sides when revamping the buffer restrictions around roads in the committee of the whole. Mahalo for all the good work you do and have done. jj

    • Jami Carter says:

      I agree! Please also consider that some roads, like the Koloa Bypass Rd, are used by lots of bikers, walkers and joggers. There is also a church and neighborhood across the street from the fields on this road.

      • Yael Claussen says:

        I think this is a good point that raises a more important point. Shouldn’t all pesticide users be posting/disclosing their usage then? If you were standing at the bus stop by my house, the closest thing that could be sprayed is an empty lot that gets overgrown and maintained (sometime by herbicide) by a shopping center. Seeking shade, many bus riders wait in that lot. If you were running along the bypass or playing in a county park, wouldn’t the buffers and information be relevant if the county sprayed the park fence line or if a nearby property owner was having their property treated for pests?

      • garyhooser says:

        Thanks for the comment Yael. Bill 2491 is attempting to deal only with the very largest users of pesticides that are applied in a manner that has the greatest impact on the health and environment of our community. The County does apply general use pesticides in parks and roadways however the quantity they use is miniscule when compared to the largest users and can be addressed via working directly with the administration. The State has already greatly reduced its pesticide use in many areas.

  7. Cira de Castillo says:

    Bill 2491 raised a good “ire” and conscious in our young citizens – to become involved and be part of a political process. They are learning how government works, how to be effective advocates for a cause; organizing and demonstrating to be heard against a well funded advisory. Registered over 100 new Voters at the Mana March – most of them under 30! This generation will take this experience and pay it forward in many aspects of their lives.
    Shepherding this movement – is a Legacy for you (along with the SuperFerry. LoVe that!)-
    I strongly believe the majority (and many of them silent) know that Kauai can do better Ag. I hope the full Council amends and supports Bill 2491 – You were elected to be a representative voice of the people – You have the support of many hearts. May that motivate and inspires you…

    This is a perfect example why we should not have Council members elected by district – everyone is accountable to everyone.

    • garyhooser says:

      “This generation will take this experience and pay it forward in many aspects of their lives.” Thank you Cira for pointing this out and reminding me about how important this is and how awesome the responsibility is for all of us…especially our generation…to not let the next generation down…but rather to support and inspire them to believe in their inherent ability to achieve positive change and to work hard and achieve the tremendous good that is within their potential. This is not about “waiting on the world to change…”….this is about making that change happen.

  8. David Dinner says:

    David Katz said it well, but I can’t resist saying it again. Thanks Gary, for leading us through the swamp of political resistance. All things considered, especially our past history, this is a huge victory. I deeply appreciate also the collaborative work that JoAnn, Nadine and especially Tim did in support. I wish we could have it all, but this is a clear sign that the worm has turned and the people will prevail. The Superferry was our first hurrah and this is not our last. You have my undying gratitude for your wisdom and leadership. As in most victories there is much work that lies ahead. Issues of pollution, reckless development, beach access and more will come to the fore in their turn.

  9. snoriffej says:

    Thank you for staying positive. It is important for the morale of the troops. And in reality, we have much more to be positive about than not. We tend to be idealists who want it all right NOW and you are the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down.

  10. Leilani Cabais says:

    Mahalo, Mahalo, Mahalo!

  11. Pedro says:

    So happy to have Joann, Nadine, Bynum and Hooser. Thankyou for all the time you put in.

  12. Pingback: Kauai County GMO bill passes out of committee | KHON2

  13. As a teacher from Waimea Canyon Elementary/ Middle School– I am grateful and I am delighted. Keep up the good fight. It is so important.

  14. Rebecca says:

    Thank you guys for having all our backs here on Kaua’i.

  15. Debi says:

    Kauai is my vacation — AND SPIRITUAL — home, and from my heart I thank you and the other council members for your work on this bill. While I may live in CA, I follow what’s happening on-island… not because I’m worried about my property value, but because aloha ‘aina. Every day I hope good people like you will do everything in their power to protect the land I so deeply love and its children/residents. Kauai may just be a little island in the big Pacific Ocean, but this decision has implications that could reach far beyond your shores. I applaud your work and pray every day Kauai’s leaders will not be bullied or bought off by the big-AG companies. You are doing SUCH important work, and I am SO VERY appreciative of your service. Mahalo ihi.

  16. islandjaz says:

    Aloha Gary,
    You have been and are doing amazing work, and the committee was very ready to get down to it in this week’s session. Do I think it’s enough? No, none of us do, but what it does best reaches far beyond words on paper. It tells the experimental seed companies doing business here that in this place, our beautiful island, the people make the decisions. We make them with strength and for the right reasons and we have the power to make them. No, this is not enough, but all chapters begin with a word, all paths with a step. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Jasmine Schaeffer

  17. I’ve been a small organic farmer on Kauai for 25 years and I hope this is a giant step towards protecting our island. Thank you so much! In my opinion the bio-tech industry wants to control all the ag land on Kauai and if this is allowed to slowly become reality they will have a stranglehold on the island and the community. This is the big issue! Please keep your eye on the ball and don’t let this happen. Again, Thank you for what you are doing and for what needs to be done in the future!
    Very Sincerely, Scott Pomeroy

  18. Thomas Wyse says:

    Hi Gary! Thanks for going so far out to achieve great things here on Kauai. I wanted to pass this idea along for continued speculation:

    In light of the Bill 2491 being accepted I’d like to offer some solutions for the near future.

    Solutions? I have a solution:

    What to do about the jobs and the land once BigAg leaves, potentially with a mess to clean up?

    The land needs to be cleaned up, that is clear and obvious. Create a fund for cleanup – from military overexpenditure reappropriation funds, EPA grants/projects, state and other philanthropic gestures.

    Hire the chemists and biologists now working for the ag companies on Kauai as chemists and biologists now responsible for developing technologies that clean up the land that they have used for experimentation. This will provide them comparable positions with comparable pay with the opportunity to remain living on Kauai.

    Meanwhile the land that has been treated into disrepair or environmental toxicity are reclaimed by the county and turned into massive green energy farms using solar and wind based technologies. The farm workers that once cared for the farms can be hired as grounds specialists – already trained in safety equipment for working on these same lands. These people can be retrained for certain tasks regarding training of construction workers for using proper safety equipment and also maintenance of the grounds, clean up projects and topsoil relocating as installation commences.

    The green energy fields will provide economic stimulus for west side members of the county as electrical charges can be renegotiated by the local government to allow for a radius based surcharge for electrical service delivery and maintenance. This will bring lower costs to closer consumers.

    The solar panels would all be equipped with rainwater guttering to divert water from the ground. The immense installation will move rainwater through newly dug ditches thereby minimizing the amount of land rainwater meets with and carries still present and unresolved levels of toxins into the local potable water supply and ocean.

    Minimizing rainwater to the ground can also function as a control space for chemists and biologists to test their new discoveries with.

    Increased green energy production would greatly minimize or completely resolve Kauai’s dependence on fossil fuel energy via KIUC – eliminating or greatly relieving the use of other environmental toxins of the air and water.

    County managed solar electric installation will provide electrical production jobs for KIUC employees that wish to remain in their field of expertise.

    Income generated by the new solar arrays would go into the Kauai’s county budget, allowing an increased budget for cleaning the land when co-op/501c3 style transparent profit management is put into place.

    In addition to the local benefits of: Stable Employment, Increased local production of necessary goods (electricity), creation and application of agricultural cleanup systems, lowered costs of electricity and a more healthy aina for the future generations

    There are the global implications:
    Setting a world precedent standard as to what an effective community can do in the face of potential ecological disaster, leading the global challenge of cleaning up after toxic chemical application has occurred, supporting legislation that guides communities towards the most ecologically sound and sustainable practices towards the future generations.

    This is an idea. I’d love to see it get expounded upon by more minds, brainstormed if I may. I imagine ideas like this are already brewing. Let’s put something together to offer the council members for consideration on where to go next as the ag firms slowly retreat from this paradise on Earth.

  19. wailuawendy says:

    Scott Pomeroy hit the nail on the head. For the GMO corporations, it really is about power and control. And not just of the land on Kauai, but throughout all the Hawaiian islands! I am hoping that the actions we take here on Kauai will reverberate throughout all of Hawaii, ultimately ending with no GMO’s on any of the islands. That is why is is so important to keep this a county action and not give it to the state! Mahalo to all of you for your efforts . . . we are moving forward and it feels really good!

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