UPDATED: Proposed Bill HB 754 On Air Pollution Still Exempts Sugar Cane Burning From ‘Nuisance’ Category

So there’s a new bill floating around the state Legislature dealing with air pollution “nuisances.” Introduced on Jan. 24 by Representative James Kunane Tokioka, D-Lihue, HB 754 “Requires a county to investigate and notify the Department of Health if a report is made about a possible nuisance involving air pollution.” It also “Gives the Director of Health the authority to enter and investigate reports of air-polluting nuisances.”

The bill went viral a few days ago, and has popped up a few times in my Facebook feed. The bill’s abstract certainly sounds like just the legal authority needed to go in and shut down cane burning–an “air polluting nuisance” if there ever was one–except for one small problem. The bill specifically exempts cane-burning from the definition of “nuisance:”

“An ordinance [adopted by a county to regulate or prohibit an air pollution nuisance] shall not be effective to the extent that it is inconsistent with any permit for agricultural burning granted by the department of health under authority of chapter 342B, or to the extent that it prohibits, subjects to fines or injunction, or declares to be a public nuisance any agricultural burning conducted in accordance with such a permit;”

That’s certainly a bummer for the anti-cane-burning crowd, but here’s even more bad news: the language exempting cane-burning from the nuisance definition is already part of state law.* See, the bill’s real purpose is to add “Foul or noxious odors, gases, or vapors such as those emanating from buildings” to state law–which are certainly nuisances, to be sure.

Now tomorrow (Thurs., Jan. 31), the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Protection will hold a hearing on the bill (8:30am, House Conference Room 325), but that’s way over on Oahu. If you’d still like to  file written testimony on the bill, click here to do that.

* This post corrects an earlier version that did not include this fact.

Photo: Peter Forster/Wikimedia Commons