The gusty winds have finally calmed, though not before ushering in the first indication of a political blow-back to Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 — Kauai County's contentious pesticide/GMO disclosure law.
Political observers were keeping a close eye on the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative smart meter opt-out fee vote, as it was pushed by many of the same players behind 2491. The turnout was the largest in KIUC's history, with 74% voting yes, those who opt out should pay the associated fees. It was a resounding defeat for the activists who petitioned for the vote.
When I texted the results to a friend — a local guy who voted NO on the fees and supported 2491 — he replied:
Expected something like. Backlash against loudmouth protestors n tree huggers.
Meanwhile, despite the fray over 2491, Kauai state House Reps. Jimmy Tokioka and Dee Morikawa were sufficiently emboldened — even in an election year — to join 34 other state Representatives in introducing House Bill 2506, the so-called “right to farm” bill that activists have dubbed the “Monsanto protection act.”
Ironically, the two counties where Monsanto does operate, Maui and Honolulu, have not adopted any legislation regulating biotech activities. A version of Bill 2491 was introduced in the Maui County Council, but it has failed to gain traction.
Though one Facebooker claimed Dee had “signed her political death warrant” in affixing her name to the bill, I suspect Dee, who represents westside Kauai, has a better grip on the mood of her constituents than a Facebooking pundit who rarely leaves his house in Kapaa.
It will be interesting to see whether House Speaker Joe Souki, who also signed on to HB 2506, pressures Rep. Jessica Wooley into holding a hearing on the bill. Wooley, who chairs the House Ag committee and is married to an attorney for Earthjustice, the environmental law firm that vetted Bill 2491, has indicated she won't move the bill.
Rep. Derek Kawakami, who represents the northeast side of Kauai, did not sign on. Nor did Sen. Ron Kouchi, though a companion bill was introduced in the Senate by politically powerful players like Sens. Clarence Nishihara, Clayton Hee, Malama Solomon and Donovan Dela Cruz, among dubious others.
The Legislature's willingness to consider such a measure in an election year, even as Ordinance 960 faces a serious and well-funded challenge in the courts, is an indication that the state isn't prepared to relinquish any power to the counties — or let them punish the most valuable sector of Hawaii agriculture.
Meanwhile, another hot potato issue will go before the public tonight: the county Department of Water's proposal to drill a horizontal well into Mount Kahili. The meeting, set for 6 to 8 tonight at Kapaa Middle School, is intended to present the “cost-savings analysis” of such a plan and accept public testimony.
Aside from cultural concerns, which I will leave to the cultural practitioners, I still have the same reservations I did when I wrote about the proposal more than a year ago. The project, which would double the water capacity of the Lihue-Kapaa area, is planned for land owned by Grove Farm.
And Grove Farm, as evidence by its recent sale of thousands of acres to billionaire Brad Kelley, is no longer in the land-holding business, but the land sale and development business. All that extra capacity would certainly sweeten the pot — especially since Grove Farm has long struggled to serve its own projects in the area. It looks to me like Grove Farm could be a major benefactor, though water customers would pick up the tab.
The decision ultimately rests with the Board of Water Supply, and none of its seven members are elected.