FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 8, 2013
MAYOR AND STAFF ADMIT LACK OF KNOWLEDGE ON BILL 2491
Mayoral Presentation Highlights Ill-Considered Analysis
and Lack of Willingness to Act Promptly
Next Council Meeting on 2491: Tuesday, October 15
LIHUE - The Kauai County Council convened today to hear several matters related to Bill 2491, the pesticide disclosure, “Right to Know” bill. The council was unable to get through the agenda, and will re-convene on Tuesday, October 15.
In addition to public testimony, a majority of the day was spent on a presentation by Mayor Carvalho and his staff. The administration took the position that the implementation and enforcement of Bill 2491 as currently drafted are “unrealistic” and “problematic at best.” The Mayor said that he was meeting with the State Department of Agriculture to get everybody “working together on the issue,” and asked for a two month deferral.
There was palpable frustration expressed by both members of the public and council members at the administration's presentation.
Ill-Considered Analysis of Bill 2491.
Council Member Bynum asked the administration why enforcement of disclosure would be so complicated if the companies already keep very detailed records about what they do. He added, “Determining what they spray in a buffer will be simple because they are disclosing. Unless they went out and did it at night illegally, and then they would be lying not only to the County, but the State and EPA.”
Andrea Brower, who has followed closely the details of this bill since its inception, said that the administration’s claims were outrageous. “To suggest that we will need at least three full-time staff people, several consultants and extensive technical training just to implement disclosure and buffer zones is simply illogical. The administration expressed overwhelm about dealing with health complaints, but there is nothing in this bill that is even about that! There were glaring inconsistencies between what the bill would actually mandate, and the administration’s fears and projections for needed resources.”
In regards to funding concerns, Hooser reminded the administration that the County has the authority to charge companies for regulatory burden, and that as some of the largest multinationals in the world, the companies should have no problem paying to operate on Kauai. Mr. Hooser also pointed out that the County Tax Department has found that the companies owe back taxes of $130,000 - an unbudgeted amount that the administration could use toward implementation and enforcement of Bill 2491.
Lack of Knowledge and Unwillingness to Act Promptly on Pesticide Concerns.
Fern Rosenstiel expressed concern about Mayor Carvalho’s push for a 2-month deferral. “All this rhetoric about ‘coming together to get educated and better understand what is going on’ ... it just doesn’t make sense to those of us in the community who have been raising concerns for years, or to council members who have spent the past months working very hard to think through the technical details of the bill. The suggestion of a deferral alongside ‘more education’ sounds suspiciously like the industry’s remarks that the council needs to take a ‘time-out.’”
In response to questioning by Council Member Bynum, both the mayor and Mr. Hue stated that neither had looked at the information that has been made public about one of the seed companies spraying 240 days a year. Nor had they read testimony by agricultural specialists who submitted studies about the effects of pesticide spray on Kauai. There was no straight answer about whether their implementation concerns were influenced by conversations with the companies.
Council Member Hooser said that what was lacking was a “sense of urgency. Have you met with the doctors at KVMH? Have you talked to them about the potentially higher rates of birth defects they are witnessing? Many would say that the time for dialogue is long passed.”
Local attorney Elif Beall stated that instead of deferring a vote on the Bill, the administration might have asked for more time once the Bill is passed. “Currently, the amended Bill becomes effective 6 months after it is passed. If the administration needs more time to implement the Bill, they could have asked for the effective date to be moved out a few months — instead of trying to stop the Council from even considering the matter during a 2 month deferral.”
Influence of Companies Questioned.
Nomi Carmona of the biotech watchdog group Babes Against Biotech testified that it would be naive to defer Bill 2491 in the hopes that the state regulatory or legislative actors would somehow step in. Ms. Carmona stated that Mayor Carvalho has received $4000 from biotech companies: “He was given $1,000 on the same day in 2009 from both DuPont/Pioneer and Syngenta. Then another $2,000 from DuPont as recently as May 22, 2013, just after the State legislative session ended. This is the same legislature that has received over $410,000 of direct GMO money in campaign funds.”
Other testifiers noted that the disclosure, buffer-zones and impact study provisions in the current bill are not things that the State has policy in place for, and suggested that if the State wants to partner with the County, a good starting place would be in enforcing existing regulations that it has been negligent on.
Brower said that while it was not the Mayor’s intentions she was questioning, it is “fairly obvious that the companies have had a strong influence in pushing the administration to feel so overwhelmed.” She said, “Kauai’s people and policy-makers need to be firm and bold. We cannot let the companies bully us into believing that we are incapable of doing anything. Our hands are not tied — it is well past time for action.”
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