Hawaii To Regulate Pesticides in Waterways

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

State health officials are setting new rules for the regulation of pesticides after a federal court ruled that the chemicals fall under the Clean Water Act when they enter waterways.

But critics say recently released draft rules aren’t strict enough and that stakeholders, such as the farming lobby, may have had undue influence in crafting them.

A court ruled in favor of the National Cotton Council in 2009, saying that the Environmental Protection Agency's rule excluding pesticides from regulation under the Clean Water Act was not a reasonable interpretation of federal law. As a result, companies such as Alexander & Baldwin, which sprays pesticides in irrigation ditches to control weeds, and state land officials, who use chemicals to kill invasive species, must now obtain a federal permit. And the state must come up with rules that regulate it.

A meeting called by state officials on Monday to hear public input was largely a battle between farming interests, including Alexander & Baldwin and Monsanto, that pushed to ease the rules, and environmental groups seeking to make them more stringent.

Dean Okimoto, head of the Hawaii Farm Bureau, said that the rules would increase costs for farmers and impede the push for food sustainability.

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