Kaua'i Council Defies Industry, Passes Pesticide Law

Regulation law helps to protect Kaua'i citizens’ health and environment

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We were disappointed earlier this month when Kauaʻi Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr. voted in line with corporate interests and vetoed a crucial pesticides regulation bill. But Kaua’i residents can rest assured that someone has their interests in mind; on Saturday, the Kauaʻi County Council voted 5–2 to override Mayor Carvalho’s veto of the bill. This is a huge victory for Kauaʻi, and breaks new ground in Hawaiʻi by curtailing the use of toxic chemicals to protect the health and well-being of the people.

The law will take effect in August. It will require users of large amounts of restricted-use pesticides—on Kauaʻi most of those users are the big producers of genetically engineered crops like BASF, Syngenta and DuPont Pioneer, which spray their fields far more frequently than do conventional farmers—to disclose the chemicals they spray. The measure also puts in place pesticide buffer zones around sensitive areas like waterways, nursing homes, residences and parks, and requires disclosure of where genetically modified crops are being grown.

After members voted for the override, supporters became emotional.

“The audience in the small hearing room, packed primarily with bill supporters, waved their fingers in the air, hugged one another and cried,” according to this Honolulu Civil Beat news story. “As supporters of Bill 2491 walked out of the Historic County Building, they and many of those waiting outside erupted in cheers. Some began to beat drums. Others hollered, ‘We Passed the Bill!’”

And while this is a huge victory, the fight’s not over. Industry has made it known they will challenge this law in court, and when they do Earthjustice will be there to defend it.

Here is what Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff had to say:

Requiring the chemical companies to limit their harm to people and the environment as provided in this law is common sense. Any responsible company that cares about being a good steward and a good neighbor would take these steps. The Kauaʻi County Council deserves tremendous credit for stepping up and protecting its citizens in the face of the chemical industry’s bullying threats, and Earthjustice and the community stands with them. If or when industry challenges this law in court, we will be there to defend it.

Raviya was a press secretary at Earthjustice in the Washington, D.C. office from 2008 to 2014, working on issues including federal rulemakings, energy efficiency laws and coal ash pollution.

Established in 1988, Earthjustice's Mid-Pacific Office, located in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, works on a broad range of environmental and community health issues, including to ensure water is a public trust and to achieve a cleaner energy future.