LIHUE — The Kauai County Council on Wednesday rejected a proposal that would have repealed Ordinance 960, the county’s law regulating the disclosure and use of pesticides and genetically modified organisms by large-scale commercial agriculture companies.
By a 5-1 vote, the council struck down Bill 2562.
“It truly is lunacy that we have to be here today,” Councilman Gary Hooser said before casting his vote against the measure. “It’s crazy that we are here trying to protect the health, welfare and environment of our community and we are here now a year and a half later trying to ask for disclosure and buffer zones.”
For nearly two hours, three dozen people testified in favor of upholding Ordinance 960, citing a right to know what chemicals are being sprayed by large-scale agricultural companies and need to test for possible correlations to health problems.
“I am in the process of moving, which involves a lot sorting out and letting go, and that’s how I’m kind of feeling this morning about sitting here in this chair addressing a bill which proposes to repeal 960,” Kapaa resident Sandra Herndon said. “A lot of us in the community have worked really hard and I want you to know that we’re not done as most of us know that we cannot rely on the state to do these kinds of things — they do not have the political will.”
The cost of that appeal, at least for the County of Kauai, has been capped at $12,750 following an offer from the county’s law firm, McCorriston Miller Mukai MacKinnon, LLP, to waive future legal fees beyond the $210,000 previously authorized.
“I recognize that the federal court ruled Ordinance 960 is legally invalid and that certain councilmembers are concerned about the cost of the appeal, however, I support the use of taxpayer funds to appeal,” Kilauea resident Lisa Mireles wrote in a letter to the County Council. “We must take a stand against the continued degradation of our island. The health and well-being of the land and people are at stake.”
Councilman Ross Kagawa, who introduced the measure with fellow Councilman Mel Rapozo, cast the lone vote in favor of keeping it alive. Rapozo did not vote on the measure.
“What I’m trying to say is that from the testimony today, and I’m sure we’ll hear more of it, is that repealing it would take away 960, but 960 is not there right now — we don’t have any protections right now,” Rapozo said, who left the meeting shortly before the vote.
A federal court judge ruled the law invalid in August after determining that the county law was preempted by existing state laws. Two separate appeals have since been filed in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.