Kaua‘i pesticide disclosure fight continues

Kaua‘i community groups appeal lower court decision striking down County Ordinance 960, the pesticide disclosure law.

Will Caron

Today, four nonprofit organizations—Ka Makani Ho‘opono, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America and the Surfrider Foundation—each represented by Earthjustice and the Center for Food Safety, have appealed the lower court decision invalidating Kaua‘i’s Ordinance 960, better known as the pesticide disclosure law.

“Today this fight continues, as we appeal this decision,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “We stand with the people of Kaua‘i. Contrary to the court’s unfortunate decision, they do have the authority to protect themselves from multinational corporations taking advantage of their resources and threatening their health and safety.”

“As long as the State of Hawai‘i continues to sit on its hands while companies spray Kaua‘i’s residents with toxic chemicals, the county government will be forced to take the lead. It is their right and their kuleana,” agreed Paul Achitoff, attorney with Earthjustice.

On August 25, United States Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren ruled that Kaua‘i County Ordinance 960 is prohibited by state law. The ruling came about after DuPont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., Syngenta Seeds, Agrigenetics, Inc, (owned by Dow Chemical) and BASF Plant Sciences LP filed a lawsuit against Kaua‘i County in the Hawai‘i U.S. District Court.

Ordinance 960, which received considerable support on the Island, was designed to protect local residents and Kaua‘i’s environment from the year-round spraying of large quantities of restricted use pesticides by multinational chemical companies. Many residents believe the law is necessary to keep their families safe as state agency regulations do not go far enough. The law required large agricultural operations to disclose the type of pesticides they spray on their fields and to established buffer zones near sensitive areas, including schools, medical facilities, dwellings, parks, public roadways, shorelines and waterways.

In his order, Magistrate Judge Kurren concluded that, although the Hawai‘i state laws on pesticides and agriculture do not contain any provisions that actually conflict with the Kaua‘i ordinance’s requirements, or even mention them, the state laws imply that the Hawai‘i legislature intended that only the state government has authority to regulate the areas that Ordinance 960 governed. The court also ruled that federal laws do not preempt the ordinance, leaving open the opportunity for the State to amend its laws to protect its residents without potentially conflicting with federal law.