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Daily News Blog

25
Jul

Franklin Park, IL Joins Other Towns in Asking State Legislature to Repeal Prohibition (Preemption) of Local Pesticide Laws

(Beyond Pesticides, July 25, 2018) The Village of Franklin Park has become the third and latest community in the state of Illinois to pass a resolution urging the state legislature to repeal its preemption statute, which prevents localities from passing laws that are stricter than the state’s pesticide law. The victory in Franklin Park comes after the Village of Oak Park and town of Evanston, IL both passed their own preemption repeal resolutions in February 2017. Advocates who pushed for these resolutions, including regional groups Go Green Oak Park and Midwest Pesticide Action Center (MPAC), are hoping Franklin Park’s move is a sign of more local action to come on this critical democratic principle. Meanwhile, Congress is considering a provision in the Farm Bill that will prohibit, or preempt, local municipalities from restricting pesticides in their jurisdictions.

“Illinois beekeepers reported the second highest bee mortality rate in 2015,” said MPAC’s Assistant Director and Communications Manager Ryan Anderson. “MPAC supports local action over state action in these cases where state pesticide regulations do not do enough to protect pollinators, children, and wildlife.”

A 1991 Supreme Court Case, Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, established that federal pesticide law – the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) – created a policy floor, rather than ceiling. In other words, the Supreme Court indicated that states and communities were allowed to build stricter laws on top of the federal pesticide law. However, the Court nonetheless permitted states to pass laws that would create a ceiling for local communities within the state. This meant that local communities would be unable to build laws stricter than those the state has already passed. In response to the 1991 case, the pesticide industry went state by state to enact state-level preemption laws that prohibited localities from imposing stricter requirements around pesticide use.

In the case of Illinois, its preemption clause reads (p 15): “The regulation of pesticides by any political subdivision of this State, including home rule units, is specifically prohibited except for counties and municipalities with a population over 2,000,000. The regulation of pesticides under this Act is an exclusive power and function of the State…” This clause preempts all communities in the state save for Chicago and Cook County.

When first learning about preemption, local advocates are often shocked. This is because, in effect, these laws stop any potential for local governments to pass laws that apply to private property. That means the TruGreen truck that’s applied pesticides to homes throughout one’s neighborhood, or the uninformed neighbor constantly overspraying their property, are granted relative immunity to any local law aiming to restrict their hazardous practices.

“Forty three states have been preempted,” said Peggy McGrath, local organizer with Go Green Oak Park. “We truly need to to encourage as many municipalities as possible to adopt this resolution, not only in Illinois but other states as well. Otherwise no state general assembly will listen and amend the law to enable communities to regulate pesticides themselves. We all know corporations are presently winning, yet with no regard to the health effects for all of us, especially our children.”

But, as Franklin Park shows, there are ways local communities can fight back against democratic state preemption laws. First, local governments can establish themselves as models for their residents by passing laws that restrict pesticides applied to local government owned properties. Franklin Park’s integrated pest management policy does a good job of this by restricting highly toxic pesticides, using any toxic pesticides as a last resort, and encouraging alternative methods to manage pests and weeds. Reports indicate Franklin Park does not use pesticides on their local parks or other properties. The community’s sustainability webpage also encourages residents to follow natural lawn care practices, and provides links to helpful resources. After passing a law addressing public property, local governments in Illinois and in any state with pesticide preemption can follow the lead of Franklin Park, Oak Park, and Evanston by passing resolutions urging their state legislature to repeal preemption.

Franklin Park Mayor Barrett Pedersen told the Chicago Tribune of the resolution, “It’s the reason I got involved in public office — sustainability.”

Where there is not pesticide preemption, such as in the state of Maine, localities have shown a strong desire to pass laws that reflect their local values. Nearly 20 communities in Maine have restricted pesticide use on private property in some way, including comprehensive cosmetic pesticide restrictions passed in Ogunquit, South Portland, and earlier this year the most populous City in the state, Portland.

Despite progress at the local level, there are efforts in the 2018 Farm Bill to rewrite the nation’s pesticide law, FIFRA, to federally preempt all localities in the country. Although the House Farm Bill contains this disturbing language, the Senate version does not. Local and national groups are on the alert for this “poison pill” when the legislation goes into conference committee. In other words, advocates say that regardless of advances that may be in the Farm Bill, nothing is worth undermining the local democratic authority to advance sustainable practices and protect the health and environment at the community level.

Take action by contacting your local, state, and federal elected officials about this important issue. Individuals in Illinois can reach out to MPAC’s organizing team, and residents across the country can reach out to Beyond Pesticides at [email protected] of 202-543-5450 for assistance in changing their state’s preemption law. And, let your congressional delegation know that it is undemocratic to prohibit local authority to address pesticide issues and federal preemption of local authority in the Farm Bill is unacceptable. Click here to send a message to Congress.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Franklin Park Resolution, Chicago Tribune

 

 

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