Stop Cane burning

A motion for an Injunction to stop cane burning on Maui will occur on Friday, February 26th at 8:30am at the Wailuku Courthouse, 4th Floor, Rm 3.

If Judge Cardoza gives the injunction, cane burning is over. If he denies it, burning will start March 8th.

On July 1st 2015 Stop Cane Burning filed suit against the Hawaii Department of Health (DoH) alleging that the regulatory system which allows open air agricultural burning is unconstitutional. Their attorney, Lance D. Collins, asked for an injunction to immediately stop agricultural burning on Maui. This was the first case on Maui to be filed in the new Environmental Court.

The lawsuit asserts five separate counts.

  • First, the state Air Pollution Control Act lacks any standards upon which the DoH may lawfully adopt rules and the rules that have been adopted constitute an unlawful delegation of legislative power in violation of Article III, Section 1 of the State Constitution.

  • Second, permitting of agricultural burning violates Article XI, Section 9 of the State Constitution’s right to a clean and healthful environment.

  • Third, permitting of agricultural burning constitutes a breach of the public trust protected under Article XI, Section 1 of the State Constitution.

  • Fourth, exempting agricultural burning from the general ban on open air burning is an irrational classification in violation of the equal protection clause of Article I, Section 5 of the State Constitution.

  • Fifth, DoH failed to consider the Hawai’i Environmental Policy Act (HRS Ch. 344) when it promulgated the rules for permitting of open air agricultural burning and are invalid.

The plaintiffs include: Stop Cane Burning (Stop Cane Burning was founded in 2011 and continues a 40 year fight to clean up the air on Maui and stop the six days per week cane burning for nine or ten months a year), Trinette Furtado (Born and raised on Maui, Trinette Furtado is the product of plantation ‘ohana. Three generations of her ‘ohana have worked for the sugar mill), Brad Edwards (Brad attended college in California, earning a degree in Environmental Science and Social Work, and he has been working with at-risk children and families for almost 15 years) and Karen Chun (Karen Chun believed HC&S when they said their smoke was harmless until she got Reactive Airway Disease from a bad burn day in 2011).

A&B announced January 6th 2016, primarily due to economic reasons, that they will close down their sugar operation before the end of the year and move to diversified agriculture. Plaintiff Trinette Furtado stated, “This is welcome news. Clean air is a human right and we are happy that our residents will no longer have their health impacted by A&B’s air pollution. Further, while I applaud the thoughtful actions of A&B and their subsidiary HC&S in making this decision, I hope that not only will they supply employees that will be out of work with a healthy and comprehensive severance package, but also look into shared and partnership opportunities with small restorative/regenerative farmers and farming operations to provide a variety of opportunities for our communities.

Until the scheduled shut down at the end of this year, A&B plans to continue cane burning for the last harvest. A&B explain why they burn cane on their Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company (HC&S) website:

“Sugarcane is burned before harvesting to remove the unproductive leafy material that makes up 20 to 25 percent of the cane plant. The leaves contain very little sugar, but if not removed before processing the cane, they can reduce the amount of sucrose (sugar) that can be recovered from the cane stalk at the factory.

HC&S reduces its energy consumption by field vehicles and at the factory by not hauling and processing this material.

Despite our efforts, HC&S has not been able to find another economical means of removing the cane leaves other than burning. Nor is technology currently available to cost-effectively remove and produce energy from cane leaves. The energy cost of hauling and processing this additional material is higher than the value of utilizing it to produce energy.” http://hcsugar.com/what-we-do/faqs/

On February 13th Judge Cardoza denied A&B’s motion to dismiss the Stop Cane Burning lawsuit on four of the counts and sent the case to trial.

If you do not want to experience another burn harvest on Maui and support this lawsuit there is a call to action:

Stop Cane Burning is asking the citizens of Maui to come to the Wailuku Courthouse on Friday February 26th at 8:30am and wear red. They suggest you get there early to get a seat.

They are also asking for support from the community to help with legal fees. You can go to StopCaneBuring.org and donate.

For more information on this event go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1018136608253183/

Every child has the right to breath clean air.

Image Credit: Stop Cane Burning

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