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Pesticide-Free Buffer Zones Around Schools Measure Could Fail

Wayne Yoshioka

A bill to create restricted pesticide-free buffer zones around Hawai’i schools is currently stalled at the legislature.HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.


Senate Bill 3095 is currently in conference committee.   But, the Senate has not assigned any of its members to work on the measure and it could die if there’s no agreement by the April 27th deadline.   Senator Russell Ruderman introduced the bill.


“The bill, as it is, is still a very modest first step.  If you’re using 35 pounds or more of restricted use pesticides, then you have to disclose.  You have to tell at the year’s end how much you used. And also, not spray within a hundred feet of schools during school hours.  You know, a hundred-foot buffer zone is so modest.  California recently enacted a quarter of a mile buffer zone.”


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Representative Richard Creagan, a physician, chairs the House Agriculture Committee

The bill limits restricted pesticide use during school hours only and not during evenings or weekends.  It also bans the pesticide

Chlorpyrifos in 3 years. Representative Richard Creagan, chairs the House Agriculture Committee, and was also a human geneticist at Yale before becoming a physician.


“Chlorpyrifos is a dangerous pesticide.  It’s been around a long time and over the past almost 20 years, the evidence that it damages the brains of children, but, in particular, a fetus unborn children, it’s become overpowering.  And the problem is, there’s no lower limit.  So, even if it’s a very small amount, it can get to the fetus and damage the baby’s brain.”


Creagan says House members voted unanimously in favor of the current version of the bill.  Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee chair, Mike Gabbard, agrees.


Credit Wayne Yoshioka
Senator Mike Gabbard chairs the Agriculture and Environment Committee


My preference is to go with the House version.  Because, it includes some solid components and it’s reporting requirements for large-scale users of restricted use pesticides; it establishes a hundred-foot buffer zone around our schools and also the banning of the use of a dangerous pesticide over a 3-year period.  So I’m very hopeful this important bill will get passed.”


Meanwhile, State Board of Agriculture chair and department director, Scott Enright, says the legislature will do what it wants to do. 


“California Departments of Agriculture did an exhaustive 3-year study on this molecule.  They’re not choosing to ban it.  They are putting further restrictions on it and at the direction of Governor David Ige, the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture is going to look at those restrictions they’re putting in place and follow those restrictions going forward.”


But, Senator Ruderman, would like lawmakers to take a modest step for Hawai’i’s children.


“For those of us that care about this bill are very concerned about what will happen to it in conference committee.  A lot of bills die mysterious, unexplained deaths in conference and that’s a way bills can die without being blamed for it.”


For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.

Wayne Yoshioka
Wayne Yoshioka is an award-winning journalist who has worked in television, print and radio in Hawaiʻi. He also has been on both sides of politics as a state departmental appointee and political/government reporter. He covered Hurricane Iwa (1982) as a TV reporter; was the State Department of Defense/Civil Defense spokesperson for Hurricane Iniki (1992); and, commanded a public affairs detachment in Afghanistan (2006). He has a master's degree in Communication from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa and is a decorated combat veteran (Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and 22 other commendation/service medals). He resides in Honolulu.
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