The House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee, chaired by Rep. Chris Lee, unanimously passed a measure Thursday to require large-scale, outdoor commercial agricultural businesses to publicly disclose outdoor application of pesticides in various environmentally sensitive areas.

House Bill 2574 now heads to the Agriculture Committee, chaired by Rep. Clift Tsuji. Last year, Tsuji killed a similar bill in committee.

Rep Chris Lee speaks to media during press conference at UH Law School. Environmental Court. 26 june 2015. photograph by Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Rep. Chris Lee, seen here last year speaking to the media about the importance of the environmental courts, passed a bill out of his House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee on Thursday that would require disclosure of pesticide spraying by large agribusinesses. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The Department of Agriculture told lawmakers that the agency has “strong reservations” about the bill.

“The protection of children, the elderly and other sensitive residents is of concern to the Department,” Board of Agriculture Chair Scott Enright said.

“However, we need to point out that pesticides are already highly regulated at both the federal and state levels to ensure safety for users, the general public, and the environment.”

The committee received at least 625 pages of written testimony on the bill.

Groups like Hawaii Farm Bureau, CropLife America and Kauai Coffee Company came out against the legislation while nonprofits like the Center for Food Safety, Americans for Democratic Action and the Pesticide Action Network were in favor.

Ashley Lukens, PhD. Hawaii Center for Food Safety. 2 mar 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Ashley Lukens, Center for Food Safety, says voluntary disclosure is unreliable. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Ashley Lukens, Hawaii program director for the Center for Food Safety, said its critical for the state to “protect keiki and kupuna health by requiring notification and disclosure of toxic restricted-use pesticides around sensitive areas like schools.”

She said the Kauai Good Neighbor Program, which allows genetically modified seed companies like Syngenta and Monsanto to voluntarily disclose their pesticide use, is “an unreliable compromise to mandatory disclosure.”

The bill would make the reporting guidelines for the Kauai program mandatory across the state. It would also establish “disclosure and public notification requirements for outdoor applications of pesticides in and in the proximity of schools, healthcare facilities, child care facilities, elder care facilities, and other environmentally-sensitive areas.”

As of last March, there were 16 school closures due to pesticide drift since 2006, according to Enright.

Read the complete testimony below.

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