New & Noteworthy: Recycling Bill, American Samoa Appeal

posted in: April 2021 | 0

Recycling in Good Conscience: In 2019, Hawaiʻi exported more than 10 million pounds of plastics for recycling to destinations selected almost always based on cost.

But, as Senate Resolution 12 notes, “end-of-life processing for recyclable plastics and waste in many of the countries in which Hawaiʻi’s recyclable waste ultimately arrives are often handled in a manner that cause[s] harm to human health and local environments.”

The resolution, which was adopted by the Senate on March 25, urges the Department of Health’s Environmental Management Division to “ensure that destinations to which the state’s recyclable waste is transported … abide by the environmental standards” set forth in the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. The convention entered into force in 1992 and, as of January 1 of this year, requires trade controls for all mixed plastic waste that is not destined for environmentally sound recycling.

The resolution, introduced by Karl Rhoads, also urges counties to adopt the same practice.

A companion measure in the House was passed out of two committees but had not been voted on by the full chamber by press time. 

Foundational Fight: The Territory of American Samoa is continuing its fight to keep longline fishing vessels from expanding their grounds 16,817 square nautical miles closer to the islands, despite efforts by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council to do just the opposite.

In 2016, based on the council’s recommendations regarding ways to help the foundering longline fleet, NFMS adopted a rule opening up most of an area that had been closed to large vessels since 2002.

The territory sued, arguing that the 1900 and 1904 Deeds of Cession protect the cultural fishing rights of the people of American Samoa. The deeds “protect the individual rights of all people dwelling in Tutuila to their lands and other property,” and   require the United States to recognize “the rights of the chiefs in each village and of all people concerning their property according to their customs.”

The U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the territory, but last September, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision, finding that NMFS’s evaluation of the effects the rule would have on traditional ʻalia fishers was adequate.

On February 22, the territory filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to decide whether the Deeds of Cession, “by which the Territory of American Samoa became part of the United States, establish binding and enforceable obligations on the United States and its agencies.”

Approximately 120 years after the deeds were signed, “the United States (in its briefs to the Ninth Circuit) and its federal agencies (in their rulemaking) have disavowed their obligations under the Deeds of Cession. This reversal, which was completely unexpected and remains entirely unexplained, strikes at the heart of the relationship between American Samoa and the United States,” the petition stated.

It continued that the one-paragraph decision by the Ninth Circuit did not “address the objections raised by officials of American Samoa concerning the legal effect of the Deeds of Cession, the potential impact of the revised regulation on Samoan culture, or the NMFS’s abandonment of a standard that accounted for these legal and cultural considerations.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has until April 28 to reply.

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