(Beyond Pesticides, March 13, 2012) The town of Woodbridge, CT voted on last week to ban the use of pesticides on the town’s athletic fields. With the Board of Selectmen voting 5-1, Woodbridge committed to a pesticide-free land management program with the full support of Parks Department director Adam Parsons. The Parks Commission originally wanted to keep one field exempt from the ban in case the Parks Department could not meet their aesthetic standards. But Mr. Parsons told the Board of Selectmen that it would not be a problem. “I am very confident I will not lose a ballfield,” Mr. Parsons told the Milford-Orange Bulletin. “I believe the ban is a good idea for all the baseball fields.”
While environmental and public health advocates applaud Woodbridge’s leadership, many would like to see pesticide bans go further and include private property as well. However, Connecticut, like 42 other states, has a “preemption law” that prevents municipalities from passing pesticide policies that limit pesticide use restrictions to land owned by the local jurisdiction. Legislation (Bill 5121) has recently been introduced in the Connecticut General Assembly to overturn this law. A hearing on Bill 5121 is set for Friday, March 16th. Connecticut residents are encouraged to submit testimony. Take action (sample text provided).
In general terms, preemption refers to the ability of one level of government to override more stringent laws of a lower level. While local governments once had the ability to restrict the use of pesticides on all land within their jurisdictions, pressure from the chemical industry led many states to pass legislation prohibiting municipalities from adopting local pesticide ordinances for private property that are stricter than state policy. These laws, called sate preemption laws, effectively deny local residents and decision makers theirdemocratic right to better public health protection when the community decides that minimum standards set by state and federal law are insufficient to protect local public and environmental health. Given this restriction, local jurisdictions nationwide have passed ordinances specific to local government land only. As pesticide pollution and concerns over human and environmental health mount, many are fighting to overturn preemption laws and return the power back to localities, enabling them to adopt more stringent protective standards throughout their communities.
The Connecticut General Assembly is also considering legislation that would repeal the state’s ban on toxic pesticide use on school grounds by allowing their use as part of a weak “integrated pest management” (IPM) system. If you live in Connecticut, you can take action to fight this bill and preserve the health of school children. Current state law, adopted in 2005 and amended in 2007 and 2009 to cover facilities from day care centers up through grade 8, prohibits pesticides on playgrounds and playing fields at schools (except under emergency situations), allowing instead for non-toxic pest and fertility management. The bill currently under consideration, HB 5155, will repeal the ban, making pesticide use allowable as part of an IPM program as defined by any number of a range of bureaucratic offices.
Repealing preemptionand protecting the pesticide ban on school grounds will be featured topics at Healthy Communities, Beyond Pesticides’ 30th National Pesticide Forum, March 30-31 at Yale University.