Oak Park and Evanston Act to Repeal Preemption, Assert Local Authority to Restrict Pesticides in Illinois
(Beyond Pesticides, February 24, 2017) Over the last two weeks, both Oak Park and Evanston, IL have taken steps to repeal preemption of local authority to restrict community-wide pesticide use in the state of Illinois. The Village of Oak Park has approved a Resolution in Support of the Repeal of the State Pesticide Preemption, and the City of Evanston has approved a Resolution Urging the State of Illinois to Repeal Preemption of Local Regulation of Pesticides. Both of these actions urge the state of Illinois to repeal the preemption of local government regulation of pesticides and re-establish the right of local home rule governments to adopt pesticide restrictions on public and private land within their jurisdiction, as they deem appropriate.
The push to pass these resolutions grew out of hard work from passionate residents and activists. For the Village of Oak Park, a local advocacy group, Go Green Oak Park, reached out to Beyond Pesticides (see PAY Mail section) for assistance in talking to itslocal board about these issues. Peggy Mcgrath, a member of Go Green Oak Park, said about the issue: “Big corporations are calling more and more of the shots. To protect our government ‘ Of The People,’ we need grassroots involvement to encourage and support our congressional representatives to do the right thing for our children and our one sacred earth.” Evanston also galvanized forces through its local activists. Leslie Shad, a board member of Citizens’ Greener Evanston, stated to The Daily Northwestern, “Our own community should be able to manage the health and welfare of our own citizens.”… “It should be possible for the community to make some decisions for itself on the use of pesticides.”
Currently, 43 states restrict local government’s authority to regulate pesticide use further than state law. Preemption, the ability of one level of government to override laws of a lower level, has an important legal, political, and legislative history regarding pesticide regulation that provides helpful context for current efforts by local advocates.
The prevailing federal precedent was decided in 1991 when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, ruled that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) does not preempt local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government. States do, however, retain the authority to take away control from the local political subdivisions within its boundaries. In response to the Supreme Court decision, the pesticide lobby immediately formed a coalition, called the Coalition for Sensible Pesticide Policy, and developed boilerplate legislative language that restricts local municipalities from passing ordinances on the use of pesticides on private property. The Coalition’s lobbyists descended on states across the country, seeking and passing, in most cases, preemption legislation that was often identical to the Coalition’s wording.
In the 43 states where the Coalition was successful, localities can only address pesticide use on public property, and cannot restrict toxic pesticides on private properties. And while only seven states retain this right for localities, those that do show there is a desire for local authority to address pesticide use in a way that best reflects the values of a community’s residents and a locality’s unique environment and ecosystems. Takoma Park and Montgomery County (population one million) in Maryland passed ordinances banning the use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes on all property, in favor of organic practices. Nearly 20 communities in Maine have restricted pesticide use on private property in some way, including comprehensive cosmetic pesticide restrictions passed in Ogunquit and South Portland. Restoring local authority to regulate pesticides is one of the most challenging, but also most important battles in pesticide reform.
Wondering how you can create change similar to that taking place in these communities? Take action! Advocating for the repeal of preemption in your state can be difficult – make sure you arm yourself with the right information. The same type of language that was used in the resolutions passed by Oak Park and Evanston can be used to fight preemption in your state. It takes work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. It’s important to find support —friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. It’s also essential to reach out to your local elected officials and government. Beyond Pesticides has resources and factsheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) Beyond Pesticides for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to effect change. You can also take a look at our Map of U.S. Pesticide Reform Policies and sign up to promote positive change in your community.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.