HC&S: End to Cane Burning Tied to Acceptance of BioFuel
News Release from HC&S September 26, 2012
We did meet today with the group against cane burning and received their petition which calls for the prohibition of cane burning at HC&S. We recognize there are different views about farming in Central Maui. We respect everyone’s right to express opinions and we listen to what people have to say.
All of HC&S’ 800 employees are Maui residents—we live here too and care greatly about our community’s health. We have taken additional steps to mitigate the impacts of cane burning, such as more notification tools for people to find out, in advance, where and when we will be burning; improved weather collection data and analysis; and changes to burning practices. And we will continuously look for ways to improve our operations, while reducing our impacts to our neighbors.
For more than 140 years, HC&S has been growing sugar cane in Maui’s Central Valley. And while HC&S is, today, the last sugar plantation in the state, we are committed to keeping HC&S alive. We have 800 employees and their families who are dependent on the plantation. We invest over $100 million a year in Maui’s economy, providing a significant economic benefit to the broader community. We keep the Central Valley green and beautiful, in contrast to its arid and sparsely vegetated condition before cane was grown. And we are an important source of renewable energy for Maui, where we not only supply all of our own electrical needs, but 6% of the rest of the island’s electrical needs as well.
But we are not standing on just the past. One of our primary missions is to explore every option for converting the plantation from a sugar farm, into a bio-energy farm — growing a feedstock that can be converted into a renewable source of fuel that can reduce Maui’s dependency on imported oil. In partnership with the University of Hawaii and other agencies, we have received $12 million in federal grants to test a variety of feedstock, and are in discussions with companies that are working on technologies to convert that feedstock into biofuel. We believe that this is the best route for HC&S in the long-term, but it won’t happen overnight. In the meantime, we remain committed to sustaining HC&S and the positive contributions we and our employees provide to the broader community. If, however, we were to be prohibited from burning cane today, before we can find a viable alternative, HC&S will be unable to remain a part of the Maui community.