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Daily News Blog

08
Aug

Stop Chemical and Service Industry from Restricting Local Authority to Protect Health and Local Ecosystems

(Beyond Pesticides, August 8, 2022) The pesticide industry has selected August as Anti-Democracy Month, as it launches a month-long campaign to undermine local control over pesticides. The National Pest Management Association is encouraging members to lobby members of Congress in August to support H.R. 7266, to “prohibit local regulations relating to the sale, distribution, labeling, application, or use of any pesticide or device” subject to state or federal regulation under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

Beyond Pesticides urges you to make August Preserve Local Democracy Month by participating in actions in support of allowing communities to protect themselves from chemical exposure when state and federal regulation is inadequate.

Tell your U.S. Representative and Senators to support communities by opposing H.R. 7266 and supporting the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA), which contains a provision affirming local authority to restrict pesticides.

The fight to defend the authority of local governments to protect people and the environment has been ongoing for decades, reaching the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991. The Court specifically upheld the authority of local governments to restrict pesticides throughout their jurisdictions under federal pesticide law. In Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, the Court ruled that federal pesticide law does not prohibit, or preempt, local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government throughout their jurisdiction. According to Mortier, however, states do retain authority to take away local control. 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.

Since the passage of those state laws, there have been numerous efforts to prohibit localities from developing policies reflecting the unique needs and values of the people living there. In states that do not prohibit local action on pesticides, an ever-increasing number of communities are stepping up to protect their residents and unique local environment from pesticide poisoning and contamination. Having failed to curtail local action and with a growing number of communities deciding to act, the chemical industry is flexing its muscle with an attack in Congress.

Legislation introduced in April by U.S. Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL), who just lost his primary race, would roll back, preempt, and prohibit local jurisdictions from enacting policies that protect resident health and a community’s unique local environments from hazardous pesticides. The bill is a direct attack on the scores of local communities that have enacted common sense safeguards from toxic pesticides, and represents the pesticide industry’s response to the growing momentum of the pesticide reform movement. Health and environmental advocates are expecting Rep. Davis and his partners in the agrichemical industry to attempt to work the provisions of the legislation into the upcoming 2023 farm bill. The industry had previously failed to work prohibitions against local restrictions into the 2018 farm bill, after massive pushback from health advocates, local officials, and Congressional allies.

Rep. Davis’s press release for the bill, in which he was joined with quotes from a range of agrichemical industry leaders, is titled “Davis Introduces Legislation to Prevent Liberal Local Governments from Banning or Restricting Pesticide Use,” striking a partisan tone. Caring about public and environmental health is typically not viewed as a liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican issue. Those monitoring local governments that enact pesticide restrictions do not see partisan motivations; these laws are borne out of concern for children’s health, pregnant women, workers at disproportionate risk, and the immunocompromised, many of whom come to local government meetings to share their stories of pesticide poisoning. Conversations in local communities focus on the potential contamination of drinking water, local recreational swimming areas in waterways, the parks in which residents walk their beloved pets, and stories of locals witnessing a steep decline in pollinators.

The decision to enact a local pesticide policy is one that comes from local community discussion. Yet, Rep. Davis’s bill could stop communities from exercising basic local governance to protect people and the environment. 

The bill would amend federal pesticide law by adding the following provision:

“(d) LOCAL REGULATION PROHIBITED – A political subdivision of a State shall not impose, or continue in effect, any requirement relating to the sale, distribution, labeling, application, or use of any pesticide or device subject to regulation by a State pursuant to this section or by the Administrator under this Act.”

This language is considerably more restrictive than the amendment Rep. Davis and the industry proposed under the 2018 farm bill. Under this new language, by prohibiting a community to “continue in effect” any requirement relating to pesticide use, the bill would overturn any existing restrictions already passed in local communities. With uncertainty over how broadly this bill would be interpreted, all local jurisdictions with pesticide reform policies, including those only applying to public properties, could be reversed with this legislation.  

While traditionally anathema to the ideology of Rep. Davis and his colleagues, this bill represents a massive federal “big government” overreach into local communities.

The impacts for public health and ecological stability would be devastating. Only state agencies and the federal government would be able to regulate pesticide use. With the vast majority of state agencies effectively acting as rubber stamps for pesticide approvals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local jurisdictions would be forced to follow the rulemaking of an agency that has been documented to be captured by industry interests.

Time and time again, EPA has shown itself to be willing to override its mission to protect health and the environment at the behest of agrichemical industry interests. As dozens of local communities act to protect declining pollinator populations by limiting the use of bee toxic neonicotinoid insecticides, EPA is set to reregister them for another 15 years. While local communities across the country are eliminating the use of glyphosate due cancer concerns and legal liability over its health impacts, EPA has denied the chemical’s cancer links and worked hand in glove with agrichemical industry groups to defend its use and stop other countries from enacting bans or restrictions.

With new evidence continuing to emerge on the depths of agrichemical industry corruption within EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, it is little wonder that a large and growing swath of communities are enacting laws that eliminate nearly all synthetic pesticides registered by EPA in favor of organic and minimum risk practices and products.

Scientific research backs up the assertion that laws limiting local protections harm public welfare. The study, “Anti-Community State Pesticide Preemption Laws Prevent Local Governments From Protecting People From Harm,” published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability and supported by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, finds that state laws prohibiting local protective ordinances “compromise public health and economic well-being” by preventing localities from enacting pesticide use restrictions that are more restrictive than their state’s regulations. In the words of the authors, “By eliminating the ability of local governments to enact ordinances to safeguard inhabitants from health risks posed by pesticides, state preemption laws denigrate public health protections.”

The most frequent justification stated by anti-democracy proponents is the desire for “economies of scale” to prevent a “patchwork” of legislation, which would centralize control and create a “predictable regulatory environment.” Rep. Davis’s press release is littered with similar statements. Based on evidence of industry influence over state policies, however, study authors hold the position that these justifications are a ploy for more perverse economic motivations—to sell their toxic products, increase their stock, and reward their highly paid executives.

According to OpenSecrets, the agricultural services/products industry represented one of the top five industries donating to Rep. Davis between 2019-2020, totaling $160,625 for that period.

Tell your U.S. Representative and Senators to support communities by opposing H.R. 7266, and supporting the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA), which contains a provision affirming local authority to restrict pesticides.

Letter to U.S. Representative and Senators:

I am writing to urge you to oppose H.R. 7266, which seeks to deny local communities the power to protect themselves from chemical exposure when state and federal regulation is inadequate. The bill would amend federal pesticide law to prohibit local governments from restricting pesticide use on private property within their jurisdictions. However, the rights of local governmental jurisdictions under existing pesticide law, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), have been left to the states since the law’s adoption. In fact, local laws protecting the environment and public health have historically emerged out of local governments, with laws related to recycling, smoking, pet waste, building codes, and zoning.

The rights of local governments to protect people and the environment were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991. The Court specifically upheld the authority of local governments to restrict pesticides throughout their jurisdictions under federal pesticide law. In Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier, the Court ruled that FIFRA does not prohibit, or preempt, local jurisdictions from restricting the use of pesticides more stringently than the federal government. According to Mortier, however, states may restrict local control as a matter of state authority.

Please support the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA), which contains a provision affirming local authority to restrict pesticides. PACTPA will provide some desperately needed improvements to FIFRA to better protect people and the environment, including banning some of the most damaging pesticides, restoring balance to protect ordinary citizens by removing dangerous pesticides from the market, and protecting frontline communities that bear the burden of pesticide exposure.

Please let me know your position on these bills.

Thank you.

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One Response to “Stop Chemical and Service Industry from Restricting Local Authority to Protect Health and Local Ecosystems”

  1. 1
    Carol Ann Beauregard Says:

    thank you for your support

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