State briefs for April 16
Nonprofit groups allowed to join Kauai law defense
HONOLULU (AP) — A federal judge has decided to allow four nonprofit organizations to join Kauai County in defending a new law regulating pesticides and genetically modified crops in court.
Syngenta Seeds, DuPont Pioneer, Agrigenetics Inc., doing business as Dow Agrosciences, and BASF Plant Sciences are seeking a permanent injunction against the law.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren granted a motion Monday to allow Ka Makani Hoopono, the Center for Food Safety, the Pesticide Action Network North America and the Surfrider Foundation to intervene, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported (http://bit.ly/1noPhcQ ).
Earthjustice attorney Paul Achitoff’s clients sought to join the case because they weren’t confident in the county’s defense. They allege the county administration doesn’t support the new law.
The Kauai County Council passed the ordinance over the veto of Mayor Bernard Carvalho, who called the measure flawed.
Attorney Margery Bronster, who represents DuPont Pioneer, recommended the nonprofit organizations take part in the lawsuit in an “amicus position,” a nonparty to provide views on issues relating to the complaint.
Kurren ruled that the groups’ participation in the lawsuit would be beneficial.
The law requires large agricultural operations to disclose the type of pesticides they spray on their fields and their use of genetically modified organisms. Companies must also establish buffer zones near schools, medical facilities, dwellings, parks, public roadways, shorelines and waterways.
Barring any court intervention, the law will be implemented by mid-August.
Kauai Fire Department seeks more overtime funds
LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — The Kauai Fire Department is seeking a 22 percent increase in overtime funds for the upcoming fiscal year, saying some of the increase is required for the county to comply with collective-bargaining agreements.
The department spent more than $1.1 million on overtime during the 2013 fiscal year, The Garden Island reported (http://is.gd/6f9FAm ). Officials are now asking for $1.4 million in overtime expenses for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
“Fiscally, I think overall, we’ve done a really good job at managing the budget that is presented to us,” deputy Fire Chief John Blalock said at a county Cost Control Commission meeting Monday.
The Fire Department is proposing a total budget of $25.5 million, compared with the last budget of $22.4 million. County departments are fine-tuning their anticipated financial needs before the County Council votes on the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Blalock said his department’s overtime expenses are divided into two categories. One pays for full-time employees who work more than 40 hours, and the other pay is mandated by employee contracts for workers who are scheduled to work on holidays, he said.
Increasing overtime costs also may be attributed to a training program for specific employees, he said. The program is designed to increase continuity when leave is taken by ranked personnel. Program participants are allowed 12 overtime days each year, according to Blalock.
Other overtime costs are unavoidable. Blalock said a large-scale rescue of 121 stranded hikers at Hanakapiai last week is an example of that.
“The crew that was on that day, we held them back, and they went out early the next day as well,” he said. “Because they knew most of the situation that they encountered, they got paid overtime for that work.”
Abercrombie apologizes for statement about Inouye
HONOLULU (AP) — Gov. Neil Abercrombie has apologized for his statements about Sen. Inouye’s dying wish to appoint Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to his seat in the U.S. Senate.
Abercrombie had cast doubt on the letter he received from Inouye asking him to appoint Hanabusa in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.
Inouye’s widow Irene Hirano Inouye told Hawaii News Now and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Monday that Abercrombie’s comments were hurtful.
Abercrombie apologized and says selecting Inouye’s successor was one of the toughest decisions of his career. He says in conversations with Inouye it was clear that Inouye preferred Hanabusa. But Abercrombie says Inouye also told him to make the decision that he thought was best for Hawaii.
Abercrombie appointed Sen. Brian Schatz, who is now in a close race with Hanabusa.
Coast Guard: Sewage spilled at Sand Island
HONOLULU (AP) — U.S. Coast Guard officials say a ship docked at Sand Island dumped about 4,800 gallons of sewage into the ocean because a valve was left open.
The Coast Guard said Tuesday that a crew member aboard Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau reported smelling sewage Monday morning. An engineer found the sewage flowing overboard from a discharge port meant only for use at sea.
The engineer found a valve from the ship’s sewage system had been locked in the open position since the ship ported Friday.
Coast Guard officials say the system automatically discharges wastewater from showers and sinks when its holding tank reaches about 1,200 gallons. The system pumped four times.
The Hawaii state Health Department says it is posting signs warning people to stay out of nearby waters.
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