Environmentalists back fee to inspect shipping containers
Gov. Lingle has plans to veto the $1 charge, but some say it could halt invasive species
Environmental groups worried about invasive species getting into Hawaii are urging Gov. Linda Lingle not to veto a bill that would charge $1 per shipping container for inspections.
Lingle listed Senate Bill 1066 as one of 33 bills she was liable to veto.
A dollar per 20-foot container would raise about $750,000 a year, said Mark Fox, a spokesman for the Nature Conservancy.
With that additional funding, the state Department of Agriculture could "hire more inspectors, or help pay for the modernizing of database they use to track cargo coming to Hawaii," Fox said.
For example, a container of electronic equipment coming from a northern state wouldn't be a high risk, while a shipment of plants from Texas or Florida -- potential sources of unwanted insects or other pests -- would, Fox said.
The governor's objection to the bill centers on concern about cumulative economic impacts on Hawaii consumers, said Lingle policy adviser Linda Smith.
A proposal in the California Assembly to charge a $30 fee on containers going in and out of California ports would be "a very large hit" for Hawaii consumers, because a majority of Hawaii goods are shipped via those ports, Smith said.
The Lingle administration's ability to lobby against the California fee is weakened if Hawaii imposes its own fee on shipping containers, Smith said.
The Nature Conservancy's Fox disagreed. "To me there's this massive chasm between $1, $2 a container versus $120 per container," he said.
Based on 2006 container traffic, the bill's cost to each Hawaii resident would be about 58 cents a year, Fox said.
In addition to the well-known invasive species like miconia plants and coqui frogs, there have been ample illustrations lately that Hawaii's prevention efforts against incoming pests is inadequate, Fox said.
"The cost of preventing something versus the cost of controlling something once it gets here is exponentially different," Fox said.
Also asking that Lingle let the bill become law are the Sierra Club and the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species.*
"The issue is not whether to spend money on invasive species -- we already do," the Sierra Club said in an e-mail urging members to lobby Lingle about the bill. "The question is: Do we spend the money upfront to keep them out, or do we spend a lot more money later trying to control the damage?"
The state Departments of Agriculture and Land and Natural Resources both supported the bill in the Legislature.
Former Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Peter Young said in his testimony that a February poll of Hawaii residents found that nearly 75 percent of those polled would support a service fee to protect Hawaii from invasive species.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
» The Sierra Club and the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species have urged Gov. Linda Lingle not to veto legislation intended to help fund invasive-species inspections. An article on Page A17 Sunday incorrectly merged two environmental groups into one entity.