State House committees pass pesticides bills

HONOLULU — Six pesticide-related bills passed through the House Committees on Agriculture and on Energy and Environmental Protection Tuesday.

“Clearly, while there are many issues, this is one where the community has stepped forward with a clear, unequivocal voice,” said Rep. Chris Lee, chair of the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection.

Hundreds of comments were submitted on the issue — most of them in support of the bills which address the Pesticide Advisory Committee, buffer zones, disclosure and prohibiting certain pesticides.

Many of the bills are in response to a 2016 Kauai joint fact-finding study group’s recommendations.

The Hawaii Crop Improvement Association was among those commenting on the bills. Executive Director Bennette Misalucha said HCIA is disappointed with the hearing results, but it’s part of the legislative process.

“It’s an opportunity for us at the next committee to educate the Legislature as well as the public,” Misalucha said. “We look forward to the next committee.”

Two of the bills relate to specific pesticides: House Bill 1282 regulates neonicotinoid insecticides and glyphosate herbicides (active ingredients in Roundup), while House Bill 253 bans the use of the chemical chlorpyrifos.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a hearing regarding a national ban on chlorpyrifos March 31.

Testifiers at Tuesday’s meeting also pointed out the EPA’s lawsuit against the agrichemical company Syngenta, the result of a January 2016 incident when several workers entered a field too soon after it was sprayed with the chemical and had to seek medical attention.

“Chlorpyrifos is likely to adversely affect 90 percent of endangered species and their habitat,” said Kauai resident Lee Evslin at the hearing. “We’re using a chemical that’s been stated as being a danger to our endangered species.”

While proponents of restricting the use of these chemicals cite environmental and health concerns, opponents say it restricts the number of ways farmers can deal with invasive species and other pests.

“These pesticides are important tools, and removing these tools from the farmers’ toolbox is making it more difficult,” Misalucha said.

The rest of the bills — HB 254, HB 252 and HB 1571 — focus on implementing the fact-finding group’s recommendations statewide, including buffer zones, pesticide disclosure and the expansion of the Good Neighbor Program.

Testimony can be submitted online at www.capitol.hawaii.gov.

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