More money needed

LIHUE — The county is seeking more money for its legal fight defending Ordinance 960.

The Kauai County Attorney’s Office is asking the County Council to approve $50,000 for special counsel services for the lawsuit aimed at blocking implementation of a county law targeting pesticides and genetically modified organisms. The council is expected to vote on the matter during its meeting Wednesday.

If approved, the money would bring the amount spent on the case to $125,000 so far.

A summary judgment hearing has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu regarding the case. A summary judgment is when a judge weighs the evidence presented in a case to determine if the case has merit to continue in court, or whether it should be tossed out.

In January, Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer and Agrigenetics Inc., a company affiliated with Dow AgroSciences, filed suit against Kauai County, charging it with violating the United States and Hawaii constitutions, multiple federal and state laws and the Kauai County Charter in passing Ordinance 960 (formerly Bill 2491). BASF joined the complaint a month later. 

The companies argue the ordinance is invalid and arbitrarily targets their industry with “burdensome and baseless” restrictions on farming operations by attempting to regulate activities over which counties have no jurisdiction.

Although also affected by the law, Kauai Coffee did not join the suit.

In February, the council unanimously approved a $75,000 allocation request from the county attorney’s office to start searching for special counsel services. The county ultimately hired McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon LLP to defend the law in court, while the nonprofit advocacy group, Center for Food Safety, and Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, will represent a coalition of Kauai residents and public interest groups.

Ordinance 960 requires companies that use above a certain threshold of restricted use pesticides to disclose their use of all pesticides and the presence of genetically modified crops, as well as establish buffer zones around sensitive areas, including schools and hospitals. It also requires the county to complete a health and environmental impact study of the industry.

The law was initially scheduled to take effect in August; however, a recent court order has delayed implementation until October. The county attorney’s office couldn’t be reached Sunday.

Wednesday’s council meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Historic County Building in Lihue. 

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