The much awaited 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision regarding Ordinance 960 was released this morning and while there are positive spots within the decision, the short answer is we lost.
This means that though State government has failed miserably enforcing even the modest regulations that do exist, County governments in Hawaii are prohibited by law from stepping forward to protect their citizens from pesticide exposure caused by Syngenta, Dupont Pioneer, Dow Chemical, BASF, Monsanto and other heavy users of Restricted Use Pesticides.
The good news is that as a result of our communities work in passing Kauai County’s Bill 2491 which became Ordinance 960 significant benefits have accrued:
There is far more public disclosure of pesticide use by the chemical industry today than there was 3 years ago. While the status quo is still woefully inadequate, the community today has far more access to disclosure information than previously available.
The companies no longer plant their GE experimental test fields directly next to schools, hospitals, homes and other sensitive areas. Consequently, residents living in these areas are now likely exposed to far less pesticide exposure than occurred prior to Bill 2491.
The County has reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid property taxes owed by these companies. The net effect is that the approximately $220,000 cost to the County for defending the measure has been more than offset by the companies themselves. The discovery of these unpaid taxes came as a direct result of the investigation leading up to the introduction of Bill 2491.
Syngenta – which is applying pesticides on Kauai’s west side that are banned in their home country of Switzerland – is presently under federal investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to protect its field workers who were hospitalized for exposure to chlorpyrifos.
The State Legislature has appropriated $500,000 to support the implementation of the Joint Fact Finding Group recommendations, which largely reflected the provisions contained within Bill 2491, Ordinance 960.
Syngenta and Dupont have both announced a significant reduction in the amount of land utilized by the GE test crops and consequently there will be significantly less pesticides being used by these companies.
All of the above are a reality because of the work and effort put into Bill 2491. So while the court decision was disappointing, the net results were well worth the effort.
But clearly the challenge of protecting our community against the environmental harms imposed upon us by these large chemical companies has not gone away. The agrochemical industry may in fact become even more emboldened by their perceived win in court and by the election results, both locally and nationally.
You can be sure there were “high fives” all around the headquarters of Syngenta, Dupont and Dow’s west side headquarters when their Council slate, including an employee of Syngenta itself was recently elected to the Kauai County Council. Knowing that a Trump administrations EPA appointments will also likely be tremendously favorable to them, the chemical companies can now rest assured knowing there will be no increased regulation nor even close scrutiny coming out of Kauai County nor the Federal government.
Given the conclusion by the court plus the local and national election results – our attention must now be focused on the State Legislature and Governor David Ige.
The science is clear. The pesticides and chemicals used by these companies are dangerous; harm is occurring to health and the environment. The degree of harm as a result of both short term and long term exposure has not been determined and these companies will do anything in their power to prevent full disclosure which would then allow the appropriate studies and testing to occur.
The Joint Fact Finding Group which was sponsored by both the State and the County after extended discussions and review of existing research, issued comprehensive recommendations intended to help move us move forward, yet the State continues to remain silent and do nothing.
The next step is up to us. For starters, I encourage all to contact Governor Ige directly at808-586-0034 and request that he utilize his executive authority immediately to implement the Joint Fact Finding Group’s recommendations. If you prefer email go here: http://governor.hawaii.gov/contact-us/contact-the-governor/