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Hawaiʻi will ban chlorpyrifos, establish meaningful pesticide regulations

With Governor Ige's signature, SB3095 will become law and Hawaiʻi will lead the nation in establishing progressive policy that protects the health and safety of its people and environment.

After more than four years of dedicated organizing and advocacy at the legislature, activists seeking meaningful, statewide pesticide regulations can celebrate: The governor is signing SB3095 SD1 HD1 CD1 into law. The new statute will restrict pesticide use near schools, prohibit the use of the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos, and require transparency and disclosure for the use of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) in large quantities. The measure puts Hawaiʻi at the forefront of leadership on pesticide reform in America.

“Protecting the health and safety of our keiki and residents is one of my top priorities,” said Governor Ige. “We must protect our communities from potentially harmful chemicals. At the same time, Hawai‘i’s agriculture industry is extremely important to our state and economy. We will work with the Department of Agriculture, local farmers and the University of Hawai‘i as we seek safe, alternative pest management tools that will support and sustain our agriculture industry for generations to come.”

“As a mother who agonized about the dangers of sending my children to a school next to Monsanto’s fields where RUPs were sprayed regularly, I am so grateful to see this bill become law,” said Molokai lawyer and activist Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who is running for Maui County Council’s Molokai seat.

“Hawaiʻi’s efforts have set a precedent, and we hope this will pave the way for other states that are looking to enact similar legislation,” said Leslee Matthews, a Richardson Law School student and legislative aid for the Pesticide Action Network.

More specifically, the law will:

1. Place a prohibition on use of pesticides within 100 feet of a school during instructional hours. “School” is defined as any public or private kindergarten, elementary or secondary school, excluding home schools; and “normal hours” are from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

2. Totally ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos effective Jan 1, 2019. The Department of Agriculture is authorized to issue exemptions through Dec. 31, 2022 to allow agricultural businesses time to adjust to the ban.

3. Provide a $300,000 appropriation from Pesticides Revolving Fund to effectuate the measure, including expenses for staffing, education and outreach.

4. Provide a $300,000 appropriation from general revenues to develop a pesticide drift monitoring study to evaluate pesticide drift at three schools within the state.

5. Require commercial agricultural entities to regularly report their pesticide use.

The United States Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) under the Obama Administration was poised to ban chlorpyrifos in the U.S., but the Trump EPA reversed that decision almost immediately after President Trump took office.

“This law is our message to the EPA and to the chemical companies that we will no longer tolerate being ground zero for the testing of toxic pesticides that are damaging our children’s health and poisoning our environment,” said Gary Hooser, former Majority Leader of the Hawai’i Senate and founder of the Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA). Hooser, who lives on Kauaʻi, led the “Protect our Keiki” coalition of diverse residents from across the islands through the complex political process that resulted in this much needed compromise law to regulate how highly toxic chemicals like chlorpyrifos are unleashed on the community.

“This is Hawai’i fighting back against the disrespect for science and public health—and winning! In the era of Trump, states must lead,” added Hooser.

The struggle for reform of industrial agricultural pesticide use in Hawaiʻi goes back even further though. After school children down wind of open-air agrochemical testing fields became ill, community members across the state began questioning the veracity of public health and safety assurances the companies and the government had given them. When the companies refused to disclose the type, amount and frequency of the pesticides they were spraying to the affected communities, members of the public mobilized and held mass demonstrations across the state. County officials in Kauaʻi, Maui and Hawaiʻi counties passed ordinances restricting the use of pesticides, as well as the development of GMOs. The companies fought back, successfully suing to block these attempts at regulation at the county level. So activists redoubled their efforts to bring about statewide action.

A coalition of families, teachers, scientists, health professionals and advocates from the Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.), Hawai’i Center for Food Safety, Hawai‘i SEED, Pesticide Action Network and others worked for years to push forward the legislation in spite of millions of dollars spent by the agrochemical industry to thwart the process. This coalition put in years of organizing work and, as a result, was able to mobilize affected community members and constituents of key legislators like House Majority Floor Leader, Representative Dee Morikawa (Niʻihau, Lehua, Kōloa, Waimea) and Senator Roz Baker (South & West Maui). These constituents sacrificed time and money to fly in to Oʻahu repeatedly to testify in front of their legislators, which kept the pressure on these lawmakers and effectively maneuvered them into a position in which they could not afford to stonewall proposed regulations as they had done in previous years. The fact that 2018 is an election year, and a number of strong, anti-pesticide challengers are running against these incumbents and making pesticide misuse a key campaign issue, made legislative survival a primary motivator for legislators to agree to pass the measure.

In a prepared statement, Morikawa said the bill is a common-sense solution for protecting our children and families from possible negative effects from chemical pesticides and the need for agricultural businesses to use some pesticides on their farms:

“Lawmakers made history by passing the first measure in the nation to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos and to restrict the use of certain pesticides within 100 feet of schools,” said Morikawa. “In Hawai‘i, children and families come first and this law says that we truly mean it.”

Morikawa had not previously been receptive to the idea of regulating the agrochemical industry’s use of RUPs, but after lending her support to SB3095 this year, the industry is running a challenger against her in the Democratic primary as retribution. As the representative for areas of Kauaʻi directly impacted by pesticide exposure in schools, her decision to support the bill this session carried a lot of weight with her colleagues and secured its passage through conference committee.

Agriculture Committee Chair, Representative Richard Creagan (Naʻālehu, Ocean View, Capt. Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona) has been a staunch supporter of pesticide regulation. In the same prepared statement, he reiterated that the pesticide chlorpyrifos has already been banned by many other nations, and was poised to be prohibited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency until the Trump administration backed away from the regulation.

“Becoming the first state to ban chlorpyrifos to protect public health sends a message to our residents that we will protect them and to other states that they need to step up and protect their residents,” Creagan said. “We cannot stand by and do nothing when the lives of our children are at risk.”

Representative Chris Lee (Kailua, Waimānalo) said it is critical for residents to know where and when pesticides are being used.

“Without basic information about where and when dangerous pesticides are being sprayed into the air there is no way to confirm which chemicals are causing the illnesses and developmental problems in our communities,” said Lee “For more than a decade pesticide companies have fought against being required to disclose where and when their chemicals are being sprayed, but this bill ensures reporting of restricted pesticide use so any impacts can be determined.”

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How Hawaii’s Berniecrats won the state convention

While the self-styled Progressive Wing of the Hawaiʻi Democratic Party was unable to fend off a coordinated establishment effort to elect a corporate lobbyist as party chair, they dominated the rest of the 2018 convention.

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House Public Safety Committee wins Rusty Scalpel award for hurricane Frankenbill

The committee voted to gut a criminal justice reform bill and replace it with a bill looking at hurricane-resistant school structures with no input from advocates or the community.

On March 15, 2018, criminal justice reform advocates discovered, with shock, that the House Public Safety Committee had taken a rusty scalpel to a Senate bill they had high hopes for and gutted it, turning it into an entirely different creature.

SB2858 SD2, the version of the bill that the House received after crossover from the Senate, would have required the Department of Public Safety to “establish key performance indicators” to track the success of the department’s inmate reentry system. The department would have had to file reports using these performance indicators to the legislature, including an annual “corrections and program report” as a consolidation of these other reports. This is pretty basic, but important, data that advocates were hoping would help to inform a more intelligent approach to corrections that relies less on incarceration and more on community rehabilitation.

But by the time the PBS committee, chaired by Rep. Greg Takayama, was done with its Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley operation, the newly stitched SB2858 SD2 HD1 had an entirely different purpose: requiring the State of Hawaii to consider hurricane resistant criteria when designing and constructing new public schools for the capability of providing shelter refuge. The language for this new version came from HB2452, a dead bill that failed to be scheduled by the Senate. SB2858 SD2 HD1 was later approved, with minor amendments, by a conference committee and is now on its way to the governor’s desk.

Don’t get me wrong, hurricane-resistant schools doesn’t sound like the worst idea I’ve ever heard. But criminal justice reform advocates were really hoping to score a basic win with the original version of this bill. And with no input or oversight from the public, the PBS committee stopped that from happening. Reps. Takayama, Gates, Creagan, Say and Thielen all voted aye on the Frankenbill (the other two committee members, Reps. Ing and DeCiote, were excused).

That’s why SB2858 SD2 HD1 CD1 has been selected by the League of Women Voters of Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii as the 2018 Rusty Scalpel “winner.”

The Rusty Scalpel award is a tradition that recognizes passage of a bill whose subject has been substantially amended without opportunity for adequate legislative review as required by the Hawaii Constitution. Article Ill, Section 15 of the Hawaii State Constitution provides that, “No bill shall become law unless it shall pass three readings in each house on separate days.” SB 2858 CD1 failed to meet this requirement, as the content was not considered in the Senate.

“The point of the legislative process as laid out in our Constitution is to ensure proposals are properly vetted and discussed before passage. Maneuvers like those used with SB2858 cut out both legislators and the public,” said Corie Tanida, Executive Director, Common Cause Hawaii. “Coupled with the high number of bills in 2018 that were subject to the ‘gut and replace’ practice, it’s no wonder people are feeling disillusioned and discouraged from participating in government. We expect everyone, especially our elected officials, to respect and abide by our laws and Constitution.”

“Apparently, some House members thought it was fine to use an overly generic title like “Relating to Public Safety” to deceive their Senate colleagues about what topic was under consideration,” said Ann Shaver of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii. “The Legislature has failed to stop the use of shortcuts even though all legislators took an oath to uphold the Constitution.”

A resolution that would seek to prohibit the practice has been introduced to, and will be discussed at, the Democratic Party of Hawaii’s state convention this weekend.

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As O‘ahu's population is projected to increase by around 100,000 over the next 22 years and the effects of global climate change continue to strain O‘ahu's resources, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply is planning to hike rates to pay for repairs and maintenance necessary to keep up with demand for drinking water.

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Will Caron
Hawaii could become the first state to ban chlorpyrifos

Activists have been fighting for years for a comprehensive pesticide regulation bill. Now one is heading to a final floor vote after passing through conference committee.

A bill that would put in place several different regulations on industrial agricultural restricted pesticide use has passed it’s biggest hurdle on the way to becoming a groundbreaking law. Earlier today, the bill passed through conference committee with unanimous support from both house and senate conferees, including Maui Senator Roz Baker, who has been a staunch industry ally in the past, leveraging her power to kill previous years’ iterations.

But activists organized a strong campaign this session that involved flying in sister island constituents, who are the most likely to be affected by industrial agricultural pesticide use, to testify; coordinating media and messaging between multiple entities; and a strengthened public awareness campaign that was able to create critical mass among the thousands of supporters of these restrictions statewide who phoned in with, what one staffer referred to with great understatement as, “an impressive volume of calls.”

“To all the people who put so much time and effort into this campaign, just know that you proved today that your voice does matter,” said Leslee Matthews, a legislative fellow for the Pesticide Action Network who is a student at UH Richardson School of Law. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”

SB3095 SD1, HD1, CD1 includes provisions to establish 100-foot buffer zones around all state schools and prohibits the spraying of agricultural pesticides during school hours. It includes mandatory disclosure and annual reporting for all restricted pesticide users of what, when and where they sprayed restricted use pesticides (RUPs) to the Department of Agriculture (DOA), making it public information. It includes a pesticide drift study to determine the effects of upwind ag operations on downwind communities. And, in an historic first, it includes a complete ban on the pesticide chlorpyrifos by 2019, with exemptions allowed through 2022.

“This is huge, not just for our farmers and communities, but for farmers and communities around the nation,” said Autumn Ness, a Maui resident and organizer with the Hawaii Center For Food Safety. “It only takes one state to step up and do the right thing. Farmers that are forced to work with these chemicals all over the U.S. are going to be looking to Hawaiʻi as an example.”

“This bill is an important statement by our state, that has national implications,” said House Agriculture Committee Chair Richard Creagan. “It will bring attention to the risk to pregnant women from chlorpyrifos. It will also send a message to the 100 countries still using chlorpyrifos that tens of millions of their babies and children’s brains are at risk and show them how to reduce that risk.”

Chlorpyrifos kills as many as 10,000 people annually around the world. Its use is already prohibited in Europe and other places. In 2000, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prohibited the residential use of chlorpyrifos but did not issue an outright ban. The EPA was poised to ban the substance outright until 2017 when the Trump administration reversed that position. With this measure, Hawai‘i becomes the first state to prohibit the use of the substance to protect public health.

“Protecting the health of the people in our communities is paramount,” said House conference committee co-chair Representative Chris Lee. “This bill strikes a thoughtful balance that protects the health of Hawai‘i’s children and families and also helps ensure agricultural companies use pesticides responsibly to prevent unintended consequences.”

The bill now goes to a final floor vote before heading to the governor for approval. But the amount of time, money, energy, sweat and, indeed, tears, that have gone into getting a pesticide regulation bill this far is staggering. On behalf of the legislature, Senate Conference Chair Mike Gabbard, who chairs the Senate Ag committee and has been supportive of these efforts, apologized to the “thousands of Hawaiʻi voters who have been demanding the legislature take action on this pesticide issue” for taking so long to realize their demands.

“It should not be this hard to get this basic of bill, with these common sense regulations, through the legislature,” Ness agreed. “Getting your government to work for you should not be this hard. The good news is, we have learned so many lessons over the past few sessions about how this system works, or does not work, and what we need to do to fix it. That includes getting new people into that building, so that our allies that are already in there can be better at doing the right thing more quickly.”

Activists said they have already whipped at least 14 votes in the senate, which is enough to pass the bill through its final reading, which means the final step should be making sure the governor signs the bill.

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“Vote By Mail” pilot bill heads to final floor vote

The bill falls short of what advocates originally hoped for, but they're celebrating a step forward nonetheless and asking Governor Ige to sign it.

Illustration originally commissioned by Common Cause Hawaii and used with permission | Will Caron


HB1401 HD1, SD1, CD1, would create a Vote By Mail (VBM) pilot program across Kauaʻi County for all elections beginning with the 2020 cycle. Today, the bill was passed out of conference committee and will head to a final floor vote. After that, it will advance to Governor Ige for approval.

The original intent of this measure was to establish statewide mail-in voting. Despite the modifications, however, voting rights advocates hail the change and are hopeful that initiating this pilot program is the first step in implementing VBM throughout Hawaii in the future.

“Vote By Mail will provide more convenience for young people, members of our local military, homebound seniors and voters in rural areas who may not be able to visit the polls on Election Day,” said Janet Mason, Legislative Committee Co-Chair for the League of Women Voters of Hawaii. These citizens deserve ready access to the vote.”

She continued, “We acknowledge the Judiciary and Money Committees in both chambers who provided leadership for this reform and look forward to implementing statewide Vote By Mail following a successful Kauaʻi launch.”

States using a universal Vote By Mail system confirm an increase in voter participation and lower election administration expenses. Here at home, the Office of Elections predicts a cost savings of $750,000 per election cycle when Vote By Mail is implemented statewide. Under provisions of the bill voting in person will be possible at Voter Service Centers.

“We applaud legislators for recognizing Vote By Mail as a viable solution to restore balance to our democracy,” said Common Cause Hawaii Executive Director Corie Tanida. “With this bill the state is taking the first step toward reducing barriers to voting. But the legislature is far from the finish line when it comes to election modernizations. We will not relax our efforts until common sense reforms like Automatic Voter Registration and Vote By Mail are available to all eligible voters across Hawaiʻi.”

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Hawaii ties its electric utilities’ revenue to performance of key functions

These include service reliability, customer satisfaction and integration of renewable energy sources.

Today, Governor David Ige signed SB2939 SD2 into law as Act 5, which requires the Hawai‘i Public Utilities Commission to create the framework that will tie electric utility revenues to performance metrics. Hawai‘i will be the first state to have performance based ratemaking mechanisms in statute, making it one of the most progressive states for energy policy.

“This is the next logical step in Hawaiʻi’s transition to a clean energy future,” said Marti Townsend, director for the Sierra Club of Hawaiʻi. “Performance based rates bring the financial interests of the investor-owned utility in line with the public’s interest in cheaper, cleaner energy for everyone.”

“Performance based ratemaking is where the rubber meets the road for bleeding edge energy policy,” said Will Giese, Hawaii Solar Energy Association Executive Director. “If the 2045 Renewable Portfolio Standard was the vehicle to a clean energy future, then PBR is the engine that will get us there.”

The bill, also known as the Hawai‘i Ratepayer Protection Act, establishes performance metrics that the PUC will consider while establishing performance incentives and penalty mechanisms. They include: affordability of electric rates and customer electric bills; service reliability; customer engagement and satisfaction, including customer options for managing electricity costs; access to utility system information; rapid integration of renewable energy sources; timely execution of competitive procurement.

“The bottom line is that SB2939 is a victory for Hawai‘i’s energy consumers who will see more value for their hard-earned dollars. Through its expertise and oversight, the PUC will ensure that we move aggressively toward our renewable energy and consumer protection goals while maintaining a safe, reliable and resilient electric grid operated by a financially stable utility,” said the governor.

Variations on this bill have been heard at the legislator for over five years, and the PUC recently opened a docket to “investigate the economic and policy issues associated with performance-based regulation.” The preamble to SB2939 specifically references the Hawaii PUC’s “Inclinations on the Future of the Electric Utility” as a guiding document for the language of the bill.

Per the language of SB2939, the Hawaii PUC is required to establish performance incentives and penalty mechanisms by January 1, 2020 that directly tie an electric utility’s “revenues to that utility’s achievement on performance metrics and break the direct link between allowed revenues and investment levels.”

“By aligning the utility’s incentives with the consumer’s incentives, everyone wins,” said Sen. Stanley Chang, who introduced the bill. “Electricity bills will be based on performance: bringing renewable power sources online, upgrading the electric grid, ensuring reliability of the power supply, and even customer satisfaction. That’s good for consumers, good for businesses, good for the environment, good for the state and good for the utilities.”

“This bill aligns the interests of utilities and our communities they serve,” said Rep. Chris Lee, chair of the Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection. “It is a big win for local consumers who will get improved electric services with more options for innovative renewables and batteries, and it is a responsible step forward helping our utilities transition to a sustainable business model that can survive disruption in the energy market.”

SB2939 was passed unanimously by the Hawai‘i State House and Senate. A diverse group of stakeholders supported the bill, including The Sierra Club of Hawai‘i, Blue Planet Foundation, The Alliance for Solar Choice, Organizing for Action, 350 Hawai‘i, Young Progressives Demanding Action and numerous individuals. The bill goes into effect on July 1, 2018.

“The Legislature has worked hard to establish regulatory policy that will better align electric utility incentives with customer needs and the State’s energy policy,” said Rep. Della Belatti. “The Legislature is confident that the Public Utilities Commission, as already demonstrated through the release of its April 18, 2018 docket related to performance-based regulation, will appropriately incorporate stakeholder input in identifying incentives that make sense and implementing these incentives that will minimize unproductive disruption and not result in unintended consequences. Through this collaborative, deliberative, and balanced process, the State will achieve the necessary update to our regulatory framework that ensures a safe, reliable, and resilient electric grid for all of our residents from our rural, agricultural communities to our most densely, populated urban areas.”

“If you were wondering how we get more renewables, cheaper electric bills and better utility grid reliability, this is it,” said Giese. “This is a landmark piece of energy policy and it is totally in line with the governor’s vision of a clean, sustainable Hawai‘i.”

“We are extremely grateful to Governor Ige for following through on his vision for a clean energy future for Hawaiʻi,” said Townsend. “After reviewing all of the evidence, Governor Ige made the right choice for Hawaiʻi’s ratepayers and environment.”

Making SB2939 law reduces electrical rates for Hawaiʻi residents, empowers the PUC to set strong, well-informed policies and encourages the utility to ensure clean energy for all of Hawaiʻi’s residents.

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