Stop cane burning lawsuit settled

The Stop Cane Burning group announced Tuesday that it has settled its lawsuit against the state Department of Health and Alexander & Baldwin.

The settlement reached under the direction of 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill allows continued cane burning, with restrictions, until Dec. 25. In January, A&B announced it would end sugar harvesting on Maui by the end of this year. The closure means that all but 15 of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. employees will be terminated by the year’s end.

There was no immediate comment Tuesday from the Health Department.

A&B released a statement Tuesday afternoon. It said: “We are satisfied with the settlement reached with Stop Cane Burning Maui. While the lawsuit was meritless and the plaintiffs’ post-settlement claims are inaccurate, concluding these legal proceedings allows HC&S to focus on completing our final harvest and on our employees, who remain our highest priority. Throughout 2016, we will continue to work actively with DOH to adhere to the state’s burn procedures, which we implement field by field, to minimize the impact to our community.”

According to Stop Cane Burning, the settlement agreement includes the following limitations on HC&S’ cane burning:

* No cane planted on leased public lands or old government roads will be burned after June 30. The restriction applies to about 20 percent of the cane lands currently permitted for burning, the anti-cane-burning group says.

* Any other permitted cane burning activities must happen by Dec. 25. No cane burning will be allowed after then.

* Fields may not be burned fewer than eight weeks after herbicide has been applied; nor may fields be burned less than four weeks after “ripener” has been applied.

* Other than the limited use of herbicides, no fields will be burned where pesticides have been applied.

* Fields burned within half a mile of any school must be extinguished at least two hours before that school starts.

* Because the Health Department’s inspector finishes work at 3:30 p.m. and never works on Sundays, no cane burning will occur after 3:30 p.m. or on Sundays.

* The Health Department will follow state law and require future burning activities on public lands to assess the environmental impacts according to law.

Stop Cane Burning leader Karen Chun agreed to waive her right to sue A&B for overspraying her house and exposing her and her family to restricted-use type and other herbicides. The other individual plaintiffs also agreed to not sue A&B for health damages suffered as a result of cane smoke inhalation or exposure to pesticides.

“The more we investigated A&B’s operations, the more we realized that in addition to smoke, their pesticide application processes posed a huge risk to public health,” said Brad Edwards, one of the three plaintiffs.

He urged people to ask A&B and its helicopter contractor to stop spraying glyphosate, which he said has been listed as a probable human carcinogen by the state of California.

Plaintiff Trinette Furtado said that obtaining enforceable limitations on cane burning and pesticide use was a better option than further litigation, which could involve years of appeals.

“A&B is able to bend the entire political system to its will whether it’s stealing water, exposing the community to pesticides or choking us with smoke,” she said. “It was clear that A&B and DOH were likely to use procedural delays to avoid any limitations to this harvest season, pushing off any resolution of the case by the court into 2017.”

Chun said the more than 2,000-member Stop Cane Burning group was thankful to have a definite end to cane burning with additional restrictions.

“It is only when we work together that the community can protect our health and welfare against the greed and big money influence of corporations like A&B,” she said.