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Profits Over People

July 11, 2013
Charles Laquidara - Contributing Writer ( , Maui Weekly

Our representative in Congress, Colleen Hanabusa, recently broke from her liberal base--which isn't always a bad thing--but this time it was to support H.R. 2250, a bill that slows down EPA pollution standards because allegedly "it keeps jobs."

Lots of questions come up here and the answers are confusing and complicated:

1.If the bill would have been defeated, forcing HC&S to stop burning and to cut cane the way most of the world's sugar industries do, would that really result in "the loss of 800 jobs?" Or is this just an old scare tactic that companies have been using for years to threaten the security and welfare of workers and their families so they may continue with their less-costly and maybe not-so-healthy ways?

2.Is cane burning really the main reason Maui residents have one of the highest rates of asthma and bronchial diseases in America? Or is it the vog? Or cigarette smoking? If it is the cane, is the reduction of bronchial diseases over the decades worth the economic loss of 800 jobs that HC&S says will be sure to occur?

3.Is a company so huge, influential and powerful (which owns so much land and property) really going to "close down its doors" and turn half of our island into a dustbowl wasteland if it is forced to comply with 21st century health and safety standards? Or is the corporate survival instinct to increase the bottom line more likely to make them quicker to find a way to find alternate, viable options?

4.Is the "love it or leave it" argument that hardhats threatened protestors with in the '60s still a legitimate response to those who protest cane burning? Or do all island residents have the right to remain here and strive for change without being told to "go back to the Mainland?"

5.Many islanders are extremely upset about Rep. Hanabusa's vote allowing Hawaiian Cane and Sugar (HC&S) to continue burning coal without stricter pollution control. They claim the areas that these toxic emissions cover affect the health of the poorest of local kids in Kahului, Kihei and Wailuku. But is there really any way to prove these cane burns are harmful?

Maui is divided on this issue (as are the other 49 states on so many other issues): Most of the Mainland Blue states have chosen to play the odds and to err on the side of stricter regulating when it comes to pollution.

But this is not the Mainland.

Most of our local politicians (and media) operate by "traditional" values... but as you may have noticed from recent national and international news stories, the times are a-changing.

Your vote in this year's elections will never be more crucial than it is today. You can choose to vote "whichever way the wind blows" in your district. But please--especially if you are downwind of cane smoke--make sure that this year you take the time to vote.

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