Maui News

Rep. Ing on Cane Burning Lawsuit: ‘We’re in This Together’

July 3, 2015, 2:15 PM HST
* Updated July 3, 2:16 PM
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Rep. Kaniela Ing, file photo by Wendy Osher.

Rep. Kaniela Ing, file photo by Wendy Osher.

By Maui Now Staff

State Rep. Kaniela Ing (D-South Maui) responded to a lawsuit today that was filed yesterday against the state Department of Health by the “Stop Cane Burning” group.

“Stop Cane Burning’s lawsuit is a reminder to policymakers of what happens when we ignore an issue for too long,” said Rep. Ing. “If we don’t craft solutions that work for everyone, the result could be litigation that hurts everyone—no matter which side prevails. The Legislature’s intermediary role is to craft a solution that prevents this from happening.”

Rep. Ing identified with community members who see sugar cane as a part of life, but also recognized that it is time for a change.

“As a fourth-generation Mauian of mixed heritage, I am a direct product of our plantation history,” Rep. Ing said. “I grew up with cane burning as a way of life with many of my friends depending on the salaries that HC&S provided their families.

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However, Ing said, HC&S is facing an $11 million annual deficit, and an increasing number of people are raising questions about the health and environmental impacts of cane burning. Yesterday’s lawsuit made it clear–our state’s last sugar plantation is in jeopardy.

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“We cannot stand by and let 750 jobs disappear and our green valley turn to dust or concrete,” Rep. Ing said. “HC&S admits that it must make drastic changes in order to stay economically viable. Let’s help them by facilitating these changes with the both economic and public health interests in mind.”

Ing said he has set a plan to work with HC&S, it’s employee union (ILWU) and the broader community “to ameliorate tensions and find solutions that all can accept.”

Rep. Ing said he has been working to find a new crop or no-burn solution since he was first elected in 2012, and has received more calls, emails and survey responses to this issue than any others. He is currently working with stakeholders to finalize a three-point plan.

  1. Fund a study to analyze complaints, weather patterns and suitable terrain to identify problematic plots that can immediately converted to mechanical harvesting and how much such a conversion will cost.
  2. Support and fund HC&S and DOH’s efforts to ramp up its meteorological reporting to better predict and call-off the type of burn that happened on May 27.
  3. Expand tax credits given areas designated as Important Agricultural Land to include feasibility studies and the cost of converting operations to no-burn harvesting or leasing out cane plots to diversified crops such as sunflower for biofuel or hemp for a variety of uses.
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“At the end of the day, we are all one community on Maui,” said Rep. Ing. “No one wants to see their neighbors lose their jobs or suffer from asthma. We’re in this together. I believe that if we can come together in full earnestness, candor, and aloha, then we can move away from cane burning, diversify our agriculture, preserve 750 jobs, and keep Maui’s central valley green. We should all support that.”

Rep. Ing said he will have a bill package ready for introduction in the 2016 legislative session, but hopes to work with DOH and HC&S during the interim to see what can be done immediately.

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