Regulating the agrochemical industry — a five-year journey

The passage of SB3095CD1 marks an auspicious moment in the legislative history surrounding pesticide regulation in Hawaii. Now on its way to the desk of Gov. David Ige, SB3095CD1 contains a “first in the nation” ban on the use of chlorpyrifos, phased in gradually over four years. Chlorpyrifos is a Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP), a neurotoxin that was originally developed to be used as a nerve gas in World War II and is highly dangerous to children and pregnant women. Chlorpyrifos is used through-out Hawaii in industrial agriculture. In addition the measure contains a statewide RUP reporting mandate and other important protections.

These two components, a ban on chlorpyrifos and robust reporting of RUP usage alone represent a dramatic improvement to existing Hawa’i laws.

A bit of history and context is in order. As most who follow this issue already know, after several years of mounting health concerns, school children getting sick, sea urchins dying and community lawsuits being filed, on June 26, 2013 Bill 2491 was placed on the Kauai County Council’s agenda. Bill 2491 required the disclosure of RUP’s, buffer zones around sensitive areas, and a health and environmental impact study. In the interest of full disclosure, Bill 2491 was co-introduced by myself and Councilmember Timothy Bynum (now deceased).

Without exaggeration, Bill 2491 generated more testimony and more public participation in the process than any measure ever proposed in the history of Kauai County. It was passed into law with a 6-1 vote by the council, then vetoed by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and then overrode by the Council, becoming Kauai County Ordinance 960 on Nov. 16, 2013.

Rather than comply with the new county ordinance requiring full disclosure of their RUP use and modest buffer zones around schools and other sensitive areas, the large chemical companies based on Kauai at the time (Syngenta, DOW Chemical, DuPont and BASF) quickly filed a lawsuit against Kauai County.

On Aug. 25, 2014 the courts struck down Kauai County Ordinance 960 with U.S. District Court Judge Barry M. Kurren ruling that it unlawfully preempts state law governing pesticide use.

“This decision in no way diminishes the health and environmental concerns of the people of Kauai,” Kurren wrote. “The Court’s ruling simply recognizes that the State of Hawaii has established a comprehensive framework for addressing the application of restricted use pesticides and the planting of GMO crops, which presently precludes local regulation by the County.” – Civil Beat.

Shortly thereafter Hawaii County (via County Council action) and Maui County (via citizen ballot initiative) both passed county ordinances attempting to regulate the large agrochemical/GMO companies, and the courts also ruled that the counties did not have jurisdiction in this area.

Thus began the past fouryears of effort attempting to pass state legislation regulating the use of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUP’s), culminating yesterday in the vote to approve SB3095CD1.

For those of us who have been working hard on this issue over the past fiver years or more, yesterday’s vote marks a significant milestone in our efforts.

SB3095CD1 contains six main components:

1. A ban on the use of the RUP and neurotoxin chlorpyrifos. This ban takes effect immediately. However, temporary permits will be granted allowing continued use for up to four years, at which time no new permits will be issued and no chlorpyrifos will be allowed in the state of Hawaii. The practical expected impact of the ban’s four-year implementation will be a gradual decline in use, culminating in a complete ban after four years.

2. The mandatory statewide reporting of annual RUP use to the State Department of Agriculture (SDOA) that includes: RUP product used, amount of RUP used, and the date and location of the usage.

3. Annual Public Summary Reports of statewide RUP usage by county reporting the types, amounts and area of the applications.

4. A prohibition against using RUP’s within 100 feet of school grounds during school hours (excluding termite fumigation).

5. The SDOA will conduct a pesticide drift monitoring study to evaluate pesticide drift at three schools within the state.

6. Approximately $700,000 in general funds are being added to the SDOA annual budget, plus two additional positions. These are intended to support the increased pesticide oversight and the drift monitoring studies.

While many of us who have been working hard on this issue for the past years would have preferred various aspects to be stronger, it is without question that the sum total of the above components represent a strong and meaningful step forward in securing increased health and environmental protections.

The ban on chlorpyrifos alone will have tangible health implications and the statewide reporting provisions have the potential to generate long term, consistent data necessary for those seeking to research the issue to determine specific impacts.

The summary data by county will allow residents the information needed to make a more informed decision as to where they choose to live, work, play or go to school. Clearly the 100 feet buffer zone around schools is inadequate and must be expanded in the future but it is more than we have in place now, which is zero.

The drift monitoring study if done correctly has the potential to yield much needed data but for its results to be credible will require significant forethought and careful planning. Of course, the additional financial and personnel resources provided to the SDOA will be hugely helpful in their efforts to properly manage the use of RUP’s while protecting health and the environment.

The multi-year effort needed to accomplish the task of bringing SB3095CD1 this far has been daunting and there are many, many people that deserve to be thanked and recognized for their work.

Most of all we must thank the people in the community who stepped up to tell their stories year after year, share their concerns and insist that lawmakers do what they were elected to do: keep bad things from happening to the community. Without their hard work and persistence, we would not have reached this milestone in protecting the health of our families and the fragile environment in which we live.

Also, I would be remiss if I did not recognize and thank Rep. Dee Morikawa, as this would not have happened without her personal effort and diligent work that resulted in bringing the various stakeholders and legislators together.


Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

  1. truth be known May 2, 2018 6:48 am Reply

    Thank you Gary for your tireless efforts to bring to light the seriousness of the the damage inflicted on the Hawaiian people by the chemical industries. You are an inspiration to anyone who cares about putting the needs of the people above the interests of corporate entities. Bravo to you and all those who helped make this first step possible!

    1. kapaaa May 2, 2018 11:37 am Reply

      @truth be known. What damage are you alledging? there has not been any damage caused by chemical industries. please cite evidence.

  2. LMat May 2, 2018 9:03 am Reply

    “A prohibition against using RUP’s within 100 feet of school grounds during school hours (excluding termite fumigation).”
    – Soooo, let’s just leave out the BIGGEST USER OF RUP’s, especially after the front page news of the EPA investigation into their questionable and unlawful methods and record keeping here on Kauai…

    “The summary data by county will allow residents the information needed to make a more informed decision as to where they choose to live, work, play or go to school.”
    – The summary data will allow residents the information they need to make inflammatory claims and conjecturable lawsuits against those companies they despise.

    Gary and cohorts, congratulations on finally setting fire to the pyres. I’m sure you’re all basking in the putrid fumes of the final fruition of your years long witch hunt. Enjoy.

  3. Not Without Hope May 2, 2018 11:46 am Reply

    Mr. Hooser, mahalo nui loa to you and others who have fought tirelessly to get to this moment. The battle is by no means over, as this legislation awaits signature by Governor Ige, and could face both legal challenges by the agrochemical companies along with edicts and legal maneuvers from the Trump administration (particularly the EPA). Final resolution may take several more years.

    But make no mistake: Today is a landmark. Other states will watch this closely. This is not the end, but the beginning. And for that, I salute you and so many others who proved that people power works.

  4. billyjoebob May 2, 2018 1:10 pm Reply

    Wouldn’t it be funny if * truth be known * was actually Gary Hooser.

  5. Just Saying May 2, 2018 2:48 pm Reply

    Let me interrupt the trump style credit taking for just a moment. Did any of you notice that not a single word was offered as to what will take the banned products place? If the most used, by a long shot, product represents the safest (if properly used) and most effective product the industry has to offer, then what will banning it unleash upon us? Wouldn’t you like to know? Does Gary know? Does he care, or will it just perpetuate more fundraising?
    To sum up:
    Gary won’t tell you about what is being unleashed.
    Gary either doesn’t know or doesn’t care.
    Don’t be like Gary!

  6. OhBrotherwhereartthou May 2, 2018 5:30 pm Reply

    Well, no one could Call Hoosier a BS artist…but he is! 5 years, indeed! This is and always has been an anti Ag, anti GMO crusade from the start.Now, because of the impending election year, any politician looking for “cover”, will definitely vote for a bill the “protects our keiki”…which it really does no better than not having any further regulation at all, since restricted use pesticides are voluntarily report by the industry to a state website, and have been for a few years. Now, it will be at the expense of Hawaii Taxpayers, who will now. pay for this political cover! If this legislation were to actually protect “our keiki”, why exempt “indoor applications of pesticides” and both indoor and outdoor application of pesticides to control termites? So if you’re claiming the bill is needed to “protect keiki,” why would you allow them to be exposed to pesticides within their classrooms? Fooled…lied to again by the “anti’s” again, voters. Meanwhile a real health threat to our keiki goes unfunded and unreported by the “champions” who claim responsibility for this sham, and that is LEAD poisoning in those under 3 years of age. Know what the tolerable level of lead is? Well, there isn’t one! As reported in April 2017 in the Star Bulletin March 5th, 2017, out of approx 59,00 keiki tested, there were found to be 1765 tested positive for elevated levels of lead: almost 3%. And, has testing been expanded to include ALL keiki under the age of 3 ( because of you have lead poisoning at the age of 5…its already done it’s damage to brain and nervous system development). Naturally, not too much political cover in this non-manufactured health crisis, nor is there much grant money for CFS and Gary’s H.A.P.A “charity”. Of course it some senators lack the “balls” to refuse to be taken in by a continuation of thsi con game run by the “Anti’s, why woule we expect them to react to a true, proven health crisis involving the “keiki” they say they care so much about? The legislature has once again, proven what “influence peddlers” they really are. Especially disappointed in Rep. Dee Morikawa for her flip flop on this “agro chemical” ( as Hoosier like to refer to it as) debacle. Shame on all of you!

  7. LMat May 3, 2018 8:18 am Reply

    TGI, where’s the rest of the comments on this piece? This is a contentious topic (and author) so obviously there are more comments than just this one, including my own, that I submitted yesterday…

  8. Ruth Kerzee May 3, 2018 9:18 am Reply

    Congratulations on your success banning chlorpyrifos and the other significant provisions in this legislative action. I know it was a long process and, like virtually every law, it looks quite different now than where you started. But, the significance is not lost on those of us who work on these types of issues every day. Good luck as you move to implementation and enforcement. We’ll be watching closely.

  9. Charlie Chimknee May 3, 2018 11:47 am Reply

    It’s amazing to see people voicing their desire to let poison be applied to our tiny island, much less anywhere else and on our food.

    We should hold a poison drinking contest for the pro poison stalwarts.


  10. andy johnston May 3, 2018 2:00 pm Reply

    Mahalo Gary for all of your hard work over the years. Although a stronger bill would have been nice, it’s a big step in the right direction, especially for my grandkids and all the other “littles” in my family who are just starting out in their lives on Kauai.

  11. Amused May 3, 2018 2:04 pm Reply

    More revisionist history by Hooser. All this bill does is give him and his HAPA group, Center for Food Safety and the other anti-ag groups another opportunity to fundraise. It does absolutely nothing to protect anyone. What a crock!

    If they were really seriously concerned about pesticide exposure, they would have included termite treatment. But no, it’s exempt.

    Too bad Dee and Nadine went along with this sham.

  12. Steve Martin May 3, 2018 10:55 pm Reply

    Growing hemp on all the land that the seed companies use would create a better economy for the island and the best part we would stop wasting millions of dollars fighting and deliberating the pesticides issues. Those who are adamant on stopping and creating the havoc with these companies are just as bad as the companies. Enuff already. There would not be a pesticide issue period, but for some reason the BS from the mouths just continue and it’s getting really old and not a productive way to move on. Oh and I forgot it’s to easy of a solution for the minds of those who would rather argue than see it have a cost effective with win solution in place .

  13. Charlie chimknee May 4, 2018 7:47 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    FYI: there are now on the mainland tenting companies who use only heat to kill termites.

    No chemicals and no poisons, and no poisons left in your house after the renting is pau.



  14. uamaukeeaokaainaikapono May 4, 2018 8:08 am Reply

    For many in Waimea, it has been 18 years!!!! Mahalo to Ron Kouchi for listening to us and to Dee for flip-flopping as she didn’t give us her support for the past l7 years!!!!!!!!

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