HONOLULU – State Representative Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui) responded to a lawsuit that the group “Stop Cane Burning” filed last Thursday against the state Department of Health (DOH) seeking an injunction to prevent cane burning by Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. (HC&S) on Maui.
Ing said that cane-burning is the number one issue in his district and has received over two thousand phone calls and emails regarding cane burning since assuming office in 2012. Ing claims that while HC&S’s previous pilots toward alternative crops and harvesting methods were unsuccessful, the State could help make these efforts more prolific.
“Sugarcane and pineapple are beautiful, but so are sunflower and hemp fields, which require no burning. Not many people would be opposed to this sort of transition if it made economic sense. Already, pineapple is gone, and sugarcane is facing yearly losses of over $11 million. So we must act now. I have set out a plan to work with HC&S, its employee union (ILWU), and the broader community to ameliorate tensions and lead us to solutions that we can all support.”
Ing outlined a four-point plan:
- First, focus on improving meteorological data collection to better predict weather changes and prevent events like the May 27 burn, when smoke stifled our schools and other public places. Protecting public health should be our foremost focus. The legislature should support and fund DOH’s efforts to ramp up its data collection and reporting. The legislature could further facilitate HC&S’s already expressed cooperation with DOH in tightening up its no-burn criteria.
- Second, identify plots suitable for mechanical, no-burn harvesting and the associated costs. Create a sensible public-interest-driven economic incentive for conversion.
- HC&S already owns mechanical harvesters that it has used in a 10,000 acre pilot project years ago, but insufficient yield precluded permanent conversion. The legislature should expand the five-year tax credit already provided to Important Agricultural Land (IAL) designated areas to include the landscaping and infrastructure costs of converting plots to mechanical, no-burn, and environmentally-friendly harvesting practices.
- Incentivize HC&S to convert or lease out land for biofuel or food crop. Make alternative crops and harvesting methods make economic sense.
“The children of HC&S employees breathe the same air as everyone else, and no one wants to see a neighbor lose their job. It’s time for leaders to craft solutions that unite, not divide, our community like mechanical harvesting and alternative crops. We all want to keep Maui green, so let’s move forward together.”
Ing has been meeting with all stakeholders involved to draft a bill package that will be ready for introduction in the 2016 legislative session. He is also exploring immediate solutions that can be done administratively or at the County level.