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Commission Rejects Proposal to Consider Cane Smoke When Granting SMAs

Cane burn in Pāʻia. File photo by Val Toro.

Cane burn in Pāʻia. File photo by Val Toro.

The Maui Planning Commission today rejected a request for the inclusion of sugar cane smoke as a factor when granting special management area use permits.

Karen Chun, founder of Stop Cane Burning and a plaintiff in the lawsuit to have HC&S’s cane burning permit declared invalid, responded to the news by issuing a statement saying, “I find it ironic that supporters of cane burning tell us that we shouldn’t have bought homes in the affected areas and then seek to hide which areas are affected in the permitting process.”

She continued saying, “You can’t have it both ways. Disclose whether an area is impacted by cane smoke or stop telling people they should move.”

The request was filed on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, by resident Christopher Profio who asserts that smoke and ash from cane burning on Maui creates a hazard for people and the ecosystem, and should be considered when granting SMAs.

The request comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed in August by the Stop Cane Burning group [1], seeking injunctive relief to invalidate the 2015 Burn Permit issued to Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company and ban parent company A&B from conducting agricultural burning operations on Maui.

The same group filed a separate lawsuit in June against the state Department of Health [2]demanding a stop to cane burning.

HC&S executives have maintained their stance that harvesting techniques have been carefully regulated and are essential to HC&S’ continued operations.

In response to previous requests for comment, HC&S general manager Rick Volner said the company has been taking action to ensure impacts to the community are addressed.  In a statement last month, he said, “We want to be a good neighbor and have worked actively with DOH to adhere to a complex set of burn procedures, which we implement field by field, to minimize the impact to our community. We have invested millions of dollars exploring different harvesting techniques and alternative crops, none of which have yet proven to be viable for 36,000 acres.”

In filing the request, Profino said his main reason for making the request was because he wanted the commission to consider the health of potential inhabitants of shoreline developments.