(Beyond Pesticides, July 19, 2012) The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), along with Alaska Governor Sean Parnell, has proposed drastic changes to state pesticide regulations that will eliminate public participation for pesticide use, undermining the democratic process and affecting public and environmental health. Earlier this week, Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) expressed concern about the proposal. “If someone’s plans risk poisoning our drinking water or fishing streams, Alaskans should have a say,” said Rep. Gara. “Alaskans have a right to fish our streams, drink our water, and hunt without fear that our resources will be contaminated by toxic pesticides. If the Parnell administration blocks public comment, it would rob Alaskans of their fundamental right to speak on potential damage to fish and wildlife, and dangers to our children and drinking water.”
In his official comments, Rep. Gara wrote, “I believe Alaskans should have a right to comment on important state issues. Elimination of a public commenting process by a state agency is always cause for concern, and when the public process pertains to human health and safety, the action is particularly disconcerting.”
Not all of the proposed changes are bad. For instance, the proposed pesticide regulation changes will require the state land managers to develop an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan that requires consideration of alternative methods to control pests before pesticides are used. Although IPM can be a helpful tool in the transition from a pesticide-intensive to a non-toxic management system, it still allows for pesticide use. With the elimination of the pesticide permitting program, citizens will lose the right to comment on when these pesticides are used on public lands, as well as the right to know when and where pesticides were used.
According to Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT), which is urging residents to take action, proposed pesticide regulations would:
”¢ Eliminate permit requirements for the spraying of pesticides on state public lands with no safeguards for the protection of sensitive waterways, drinking water sources, fish and wildlife habitat, or public health;
”¢ Block public participation in decisions about pesticide spraying on public lands””with no public hearings, opportunity for written public comments, or way to appeal bad decisions. This would deprive Alaskans of the right to speak out about potential harm to drinking water, fishing streams, subsistence uses, dangers to our children and public health;
”¢ Promote the application of potentially harmful pesticides and herbicides without consideration of toxicity and effects to health and the environment;
”¢ Weaken public right-to-know requirements to notify the public about places where the pesticides will be sprayed.
“We are deeply concerned that the governor would weaken our democracy by eliminating public participation in decisions that affect our water quality, fish habitat, and public health,” Pamela Miller, biologist and executive director of ACAT.
TAKE ACTION: If you live in Alaska, please submit a letter (sample text provided) to Rebecca Colvin, Solid Waste and Pesticide Program, Division of Environmental Health, Department of Environmental Conservation. Or, you can email her directly at Rebecca.firstname.lastname@example.org. The comments must be received no later than 5 pm on August 2, 2012.
Because the summer season is a busy time for many Alaskans, and Alaskans who work away from home in the summer, Rep. Gara has asked Commissioner Hartig of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to extend the public comment period on the proposed changes to the pesticide regulations another 60 days to October 2, 2012.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.