Rep. Jessica Wooley
Rep. Jessica Wooley
Rep. Jessica Wooley

Hawaii environmental groups have launched a campaign to pressure state Senators to confirm House Agriculture Chair Jessica Wooley as the governor’s Director of ​the Office of ​Environmental Quality Control.

According to Babes against Biotech and the Sierra Club-Hawaii Chapter, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Clarence Nishihara has waged a campaign to stop Wooley’s confirmation. He reportedly has 13 of 25 votes on his side, enough to kill her confirmation.

Nishihara was not immediately available for comment.

Wooley, in partnership with local environmental groups, have pushed for GMO food labeling and pesticide bans. They have at times been at odds with Nishihara, who opposes such legislation.

In an email to supporters, a Sierra Club spokeswoman said: “The Senate is charged with ensuring Wooley is qualified to serve, which she clearly is. She has a background in environmental law, having served as a deputy attorney general for several years, and has experience working with environmental agencies. If Rep. Wooley is rejected, it could discourage future leaders from being outspoken in advocating their views. It could diminish willingness to step out on controversial issues and ensure various points of view are represented.”

“Senator Nishihara is putting his own interests above the interests of the environment, public, and businesses who all want a director to make sure our environmental laws are followed.”

Nomi Carmona, President of Babes Against Biotech, said in an email, “My source that overheard a conversation between several Senators yesterday tells me this (opposition to Wooley’s appointment) is in retaliation for Rep. Wooley fighting for local food security and sustainability, small local farmers and GMO labeling. Basically, for standing up for what the people want and trying to increase local sustainable food production and achieve the majority desire for GMO labeling, they are trying to take her appointment and put her out of a job.​”

Caramona said the Senators “have collectively killed almost every single local food/sustainability/ag/pesticide/GMO bill this session.”

Wooley’s confirmation vote has been set for Tuesday.

The position in the governor’s cabinet that Wooley hopes to fill has been vacant for a year.

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