Testimony in Opposition to the granting of a renewable permit rp5983 Syngenta Seeds, Inc, TMK (4) 1-2-002:040-000 and requesting a CDUP be required.
BLNR Meeting of October 27, 2017
Agenda item: DLNR Land Division Item #3, Annual Renewal of Revocable Permits on the Island of Kauai.
DLNR Staff Recommendation: “That the Board find this project will probably have minimal or no significant effect on the environment and is presumed to be exempt from the preparation of an environmental assessment.”
This testimony is in opposition to the issuance of any Revocable Permit to Syngenta until an appropriate environmental review per HRS chapter 343 has been completed. Syngenta, and all other identified RP applicants, must also comply with DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands’ (OCCL) recommendation that they apply for conservation district use permits for their land uses and those CDUPs should not be exempted from HRS 343 environmental document preparation.
As the President of the Board of Directors for the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA), who is a plaintiff arguing this very point in the courts, I strongly urge this body not to act on any permit renewal until the legal questions now before Judge Randal Valenciano are properly addressed.
Further, as the former Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control (OEQC) I am keenly aware of the law and rules governing Chapter 343 and an exemption in this case is inappropriate for many reasons.
The OEQC’s guidelines state: “If an exempt action is proposed in a particularly sensitive environment, or if successive exempt actions could have a cumulative impact, the exempt status of the action would be invalid.”
THIS PROVISION SUPERSEDES ALL “STANDARD EXEMPTIONS” including those cited in the BLNR statement justifying the exemption that “…the subject action is exempt from the preparation of an environmental assessment pursuant to: Exemption Class 1, “Operations, repairs, or maintenance of existing structures, facilities, equipment, or topographical features, involving negligible or no expansion or change of use beyond that previously existing.”
In this case both situations apply. The parcel proposed for Syngenta’s use is situated in a coastal area a portion of which is designated State Land Use District: Conservation. The particularly sensitive environment of coastal areas and conservation land in general, is sufficient reason to not exempt this action and instead require robust and thorough environmental review.
In addition the provision relating to “if successive exempt actions could have a cumulative impact” certainly applies.
Syngenta is an agrochemical company that conducts intensive research on crops that are federally regulated and that require large amounts of Restricted Use Pesticides. The cumulative impact of Syngenta’s use of highly toxic chemicals over a number of years in a sensitive coastal area has never been evaluated. The risks to health and environment from decades of chronic exposure must be evaluated prior to the approval of any permit extensions.
The planned and historical activity conducted by Syngenta is not customary or ordinary agriculture and there have been no, even cursory, environmental assessments conducted as to the near term or long term impacts, cumulative impacts over time, or the secondary impacts caused by the repeated and long term use of highly toxic chemicals. Nor has there been any review as to the impacts of experimental and federally regulated crops (not approved for human consumption) on the local communities health and natural environment.
In my capacity as the OEQC director, a State Senator, and as an elected member of the Kauai County Council, I am keenly aware of the concerns and impacts that Syngenta has in my community. I receive phone calls and emails on a regular basis from residents that raise concerns about the potential health and environmental impacts. I am also keenly aware of the need to gather data and accurate information, in order to make good decisions that significantly impact my community. We have had incidents of school children getting sick downwind of these fields. We have had massive sea urchin die offs along the coastlines. I get calls from surfers who can smell the pesticide drift while they sit in the water waiting to catch a wave. I have seen testimony from medical doctors who practice in West Kaua‘i hospitals who are very concerned about the health conditions of residents in the towns they serve.
There are many questions and few answers, because there have been no comprehensive environmental studies on these lands most of which are owned by the State of Hawai‘i.
It is the Board’s obligation to know whether its permit for Syngenta to use these lands is harming these people and or the environment in which they live and play. The Board cannot make an informed decision about whether Syngenta’s uses of public trust lands are harming those lands, waters, or the people around it without knowing how they are using the land, what pesticides they use, how often, how much and where it is being used.
Staff and Syngenta merely refer to “agricultural uses” and growing seed corn, which describes a range of activities that can hardly be called farming. My research is clear that no regular “food farmer” in Hawaii uses anything close to the range and volume of Restricted Use Pesticides applied on a regular basis by Syngenta. Regular “food farmers” do not require federal permits to grow regulated crops that are not approved for human consumption or for release into the environment.
However, we know for a fact that Syngenta conducts such research on federally regulated Genetically Engineered Crops in Kaua`i critical habitat areas because Syngenta is required to provide copies of their federal permits to the State Department of Health (SDOH). But there has been no consultation by the BLNR with SDOH on whether and how experimental Genetically Engineered Crops may impact those habitats and the SDOH is not even listed as a consulting agency, even though that agency is the repository for those same experimental permits.
In summary, I again implore upon this body to honor both the public trust doctrine enshrined in our constitution and clearly articulated in HRS343, and not approve any Revocable Permit for Syngenta until a full and complete environmental review has been conducted.
From: Gary Hooser, Board President – Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA)
NOTE: This item was pulled from the agenda and not actually heard on the date this testimony was submitted. I assume it will be rescheduled.