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.
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.