Court rules in favor of state, Syngenta

  • Jessica Else/The Garden Island

    Members of the various groups that make up the plaintiffs in the environmental review case against the Board of Land and Natural Resources and Syngenta exit the court room on Thursday afternoon.

LIHUE — A lawsuit calling for environmental review of seed company operations was dismissed by Judge Randal Valenciano on Thursday.

Syngenta isn’t proposing any new uses for the land they operate on Kauai’s Westside, and with no change in use, Valenciano ruled that the state need not require an environmental impact statement or environmental assessment of their actions.

But Valenciano did rule that the Hawaii Environmental Policy Act does apply to companies like Syngenta when they propose new operations.

“There’s no indication that there’s going to be a change in the use,” Valenciano said on Thursday. “No evidence that the action has changed.”

Defendants Syngenta and the state Board of Land and Natural Resources both said they are encouraged by the decision, and plaintiffs said they plan to appeal.

“The Department of Land and Natural Resources — headed by its Board — is charged to manage, administer, and control the State’s public lands and resources. This is a huge responsibility that the Department and the Board discharge to the very best of their ability,” said BLNR chairperson Suzanne Case.

Paul Minehart, Syngenta’s spokesman, said the company is pleased with the ruling “and believed the permit process was handled appropriately.”

Plaintiffs in the case are the community hui Ke Kauhulu O Mana, the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action, Surfrider Foundation, Kohola Leo and Kekaha resident Punohu Kekaualua III.

And though plaintiffs are disappointed with the overall ruling, they pointed to a silver lining in Valenciano’s decision regarding HEPA’s application to Syngenta operations.

“This means leases for any new or expanded operations in the future will be required to go through an environmental review process,” said Gary Hooser, president of the HAPA.

The lawsuit stemmed from a February 2017 BLNR decision to consolidate two parcels of land leased by Syngenta under one Revocable Permit.

Plaintiffs alleged that BLNR violated Hawaii laws by failing to require an EA or EIS for the use of the lands, by approving the exemption from environmental document preparation, by relying on an outdated conservation use permit that was issued for a different use, and by violating the duty to protect public trust resources.

Precedence for the case was the recent Supreme Court Umberger decision, that looked at commercial aquarium collection permits, ultimately determining that the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources is subject to the environmental review procedures under HEPA.

Lance Collins, representing the plaintiffs, said he sees a similarity between cases, because aquarium collection activities had been ongoing for decades before the courts ruled environmental review was required.

“This (agribusiness and Syngenta activities) has been going on for two decades,” Collins said. “We believe the judge has erred in his decision and we intend to appeal.”

  1. Jack November 10, 2017 6:24 am Reply

    Using Ag land for agriculture requires an EIS? This will end farming in Hawaii.

  2. Dinkydao November 10, 2017 7:05 am Reply

    Again, trying to rid the agribusinesses on the westside. Much ado over nothing. If the activists would do their homework and see what it takes to comply with all the regulations, we would not have all the unnecessary actions over nothing.

  3. ChrisG November 10, 2017 8:42 am Reply

    The ‘ farming use’ employed by Syngenta is not a conservation use. If the old permit is not for seed production then it is not transferable. Appeal!

  4. David November 10, 2017 9:10 am Reply


    For you crimes against Kauai. Not caring that you are poising the land and people. What do you get.
    Never mind the piece of paper that says its the law that you say makes it ok. Sleep good, and say hi to karma for me.
    What a joke.

  5. julian miller November 10, 2017 3:01 pm Reply

    Syngenta has been working on yellow rice for 20 years. They keep insisting it is a great thing but research and the results show GMO rice becomes less productive than regular rice. The recent study is here:

    1. Eric Bjerregaard November 11, 2017 2:50 pm Reply

      Independent science news is a fake news site. The truth is that G.R. is now awaiting approval for use in both Bangladesh and the P.I.

  6. Kamahana November 11, 2017 11:50 am Reply


  7. Pete Antonson November 11, 2017 1:20 pm Reply

    julian miller
    for your consideration:
    One study never changes a scientific consensus.
    Research has produced several strains of Golden Rice. Some have been more effective than others.
    Even your article uses the name “Golden Rice.” Changing that to “yellow rice” just shows your capacity for pettiness!

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