Bills to ban certain pesticides move forward in legislature

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Four bills are moving ahead in the state legislature, and lawmakers believe that a lack of action on the federal level will increase the likelihood that the bills will pass.

The bills would regulate the use of some heavily used pesticides, including a popular herbicide called Roundup.

Another target is the chemical chlorpyrifos, which has been found in some ant and roach killing household products. It's also used to control fire ants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it's not a carcinogen, but it is considered moderately hazardous to humans by the World Health Organization.

"It's something now which we are trying to regulate because significant amounts are being used in Hawaii, and there are significant concerns that the community is bringing forward," said state Rep. Chris Lee (D), who chairs the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee.

Lawmakers say they're taking action now, partly because the Trump Administration reversed a plan to ban the chemical nationwide.

Another bill would regulate glyphosate, which is used in Roundup. Local governments use it to stop overgrowth along roads and in parks.

The state Agriculture Department is asking the house panel not to ban phosphate.

"It is a general use pesticide," the department's Micah Munekata told the committee during a hearing Thursday. "I'm pretty sure most people have it in their back yards or in their garages."

"It's been around for 40 years. It's been used safely for 40 years," said Dan Clegg of Monsanto.

For years, measures to regulate pesticides in Hawaii have failed. And for years, residents such as Clayton Kubo of Kauai have returned to the state capitol to beg for more protections to stop pesticide drift on Kauai's west side, where seed companies operate.

"It's in your guys' hands," Kubo said. "I'm sorry to raise my voice but I've been impacted for many, many years."

"I have grandchildren that grew up in Kekaha on the island of Kauai," said state Rep. Cynthia Thielen (R), who sits on the House Agriculture Committee. "And the pesticide drift in Kekaha was really severe."

Thielen is among the lawmakers who believe that the bills are overdue. She also believes the bills will have a better chance of passing because of rollbacks at the federal level.

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