Environmental protection legislation that has been the subject of an intense lobbying and public relations campaign still has no resolution in the final days of 2018 Hawaii Legislature.

Senate Bill 3095 has drawn the interest of community groups, state and county officials, agribusinesses and the media.

It calls for mandatory disclosure of pesticide use, a reporting and regulation program and the establishment of buffer zones around schools when restricted-use pesticides are sprayed.

The measure would also ban the use of pesticides containing chlorpyrifos as an active ingredient in 2019, although the state Department of Agriculture could grant temporary permits allowing its use through 2021.

Chair Mike Gabbard and left, Chair Richard Creagan during conference committee on pesticide being rescheduled for tomorrow, down to the wire.
A hearing room was packed Thursday morning when lawmakers met to vote on SB 3095. But the measure was pushed to Friday, its fate still uncertain. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

There is also a financial component to the bill, clarifying how the state’s pesticide use fund is used and creating two full-time positions in the DOA to carry out the bill’s mandate, which includes education and outreach.

The bill also requires sign-off from the money committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives. Failure to get that approval is often what kills dozens of bills on the last day of the Legislature’s conference committee period.

That day is Friday, and House and Senate conferees are scheduled to met on SB 3095 at 10 a.m. They have until a deadline of 6 p.m. to work things out.

As of Thursday, that was not a done deal.

A New Draft

The uncertainty of the bill’s fate was underscored by a joint House-Senate press release Wednesday afternoon that SB 3095 would be voted on Thursday morning with a press conference to follow that afternoon.

Just three hours later, the press conference was canceled. A House spokesman said indications that agreement had been reached were premature.

Chair Mike Gabbard in conference committee on pesticide measure reconvening tomorrow.
Sen. Mike Gabbard is the lead conferee for his chamber on the pesticide disclosure bill. On Thursday, he proposed changes. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

House leaders now say they are waiting to hear if the Senate will accept their amended version of the bill. But the Senate has proposed a new draft that it hopes the House will agree to.

Several senators and representatives told Civil Beat they remain hopeful that the two sides can craft a compromise.

What Is Chlorpyrifos?

There is already disagreement on the danger posed by chlorpyrifos, a word whose very pronunciation is also in question. (“Chlor-PEER-a-foss” seems to be the preferred manner.)

The insecticide is widely used in agriculture, and, as FactCheck.org reported in April 2017, “both the (federal Environmental Protection Agency) and its critics claimed ‘sound’ or ‘solid’ science” supported their positions.

“Research does suggest chlorpyrifos impacts human health, but that research has some limitations,” says the report, noting that some studies say chlorpyrifos exposure can lead to developmental issues in children.

It continues: “The EPA, under the Obama administration, proposed to ban chlorpyrifos in November 2015. But EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed that decision last month, arguing he was relying on ‘sound science.’”

Chair Richard Creagan Conference committee hearing on pesticide being rescheduled for tomorow down to the wire.
Rep. Richard Creagan is Gabbard’s counterpart on SB 3095. As a medical doctor, he has expressed concerns about chlorpyrifos. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The House’s version of SB 3095 and the Senate’s last-minute proposal (known as a Conference Draft 1) are nearly identical.

But a key difference is that the Senate wants to change the expiration date for temporary use of the pesticide from Dec. 31, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2022.

Another is that, under the Senate version, the Department of Agriculture would be given $300,000 to develop a pesticide drift monitoring study “to evaluate pesticide drift at three schools” in the state. The department would then have to report back to the Legislature its findings and recommendations in 2020.

Concerns about children being exposed to pesticides applied “on school grounds, pesticides that drift onto school grounds, or pesticide residues” was part of the original version of SB 3095, authored by Sen. Russell Ruderman.

A drift study is not mentioned in the House draft.

The state Senate’s proposed conference draft for SB 3095:

Join the conversation in-person at Civil Beat’s Civil Cafe event, “Legislative Wrap-up 2018,” on Wednesday, May 2, at noon at the Capitol. Go to our RSVP page to register and get more information.

Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to news@civilbeat.org and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.

About the Author