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Daily News Blog

13
Oct

Urgent Action—Will Congress Defend Communities’ Right to Protect Public Health and the Environment?

Defend Communities Right to Protect Public Health and the Environment - US Congress, House of Representatives

(Beyond Pesticides, October 13, 2023) Will the chemical industry and pesticide-dependent service industry (e.g., conventional landscaping industry) trample democratic rights and force the allowance of pesticide use against the will of communities across the U.S.? The answer is unequivocally yes, they are trying. In fact, the industries’ campaign is now playing out in the U.S. Congress, as members deliberate on the next Farm Bill. Members of Congress who advocate the pesticide lobby’s anti-democratic position are telling constituents that they do not support their right to restrict pesticides more stringently than the federal government.

Please urge your U.S. Representative to sign the Congressional “Dear Colleague” Letter and uphold the right of local governments and states to restrict pesticides. Time sensitive: Please take action today (Friday, October 13, 2023) or as soon as possible. Thank you!

Advocates are clearly telling members of Congress that the long-held federal-state balance of local, state, and federal authority will be broken if the federal government steps in to deny localities the authority to control pesticide use more stringently than federal law. The history is clear. The U.S. Supreme Court in Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Mortier (1991) found, “[The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act] FIFRA nowhere seeks to establish an affirmative permit scheme for the actual use of pesticides,” and the law “does not equate registration and labeling requirements with a general approval to apply pesticides throughout the Nation without regard to regional and local factors, like climate, population, geography and water supply.” The law envisions local authority to restrict pesticides, with the federal law being a floor not a ceiling. FIFRA affirms the local democratic process to protect health and the environment, similar to local laws on recycling, dog waste, and zoning, affirming local policy powers. 

Members of Congress are now circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter opposing federal preemption of local authority on pesticide use. The Congressional letter emphasizes the importance of preserving the rights of state, county, and local governments to protect their communities and enact policies that align with local needs. The letter argues that curtailing these powers will undermine public safety and jeopardize environmental and public health standards. 

FIFRA grants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to regulate pesticides in the U.S. Congress established FIFRA as a federal baseline (floor) for pesticide policies, allowing state and local governments to implement additional standards and restrictions tailored to their communities’ unique requirements and concerns. 

Many states and numerous municipalities have already enacted laws and ordinances aimed at pesticide safety, such as restricting pesticide use near sensitive areas like schools and parks, safeguarding drinking water supplies, and providing consumers with information to make informed decisions about pesticide use. Many of these measures also equip farmworkers with the knowledge and tools to reduce occupational risks associated with pesticides. 

The lawmakers who penned the “Dear Colleague” letter express deep concern over legislative proposals that seek to limit state and local adoption of pesticide restrictions. They argue that these proposals challenge the longstanding balance of federal, state, and local authority established by FIFRA. Moreover, these initiatives run counter to decades of precedent and Supreme Court rulings that uphold the right of democratically elected local governments to address their community’s specific needs. 

It is of note that there are local conditions (ecosystems, health issues such as cancer clusters, elevated childhood asthma, or determinations of acceptable harm/risk/uncertainty) that local governments/jurisdictions, closest to the ground and the issues, are equipped to address. The lawmakers who signed the letter call on their colleagues in Congress to reject any pesticide policy riders that would diminish local authority and compromise the ability of Congress to pass bipartisan legislation. They emphasize the importance of maintaining a robust system of checks and balances that allows local governments to respond to the unique challenges and needs of their communities. 

Federal preemption in the context of pesticide legislation in the Farm Bill would mean a federal ban on local pesticide restrictions (often called a ban on bans), whereas currently local authority is a state question. Preemption language in the Farm Bill would mean the federal government can override (supersede) the authority of individual states to regulate their local areas, as long as those states meet the minimum standards set by the federal government (i.e., the EPA-approved label on the pesticide). Generally, the federal government will set a floor (in this case FIFRA) of basic rules to protect everyone in the country, and then states can choose to allow stricter rules at the local level, similar requirements related to recycling, zoning, dog waste, smoking, and water treatment. However, with federal pesticide preemption, the federal government is taking away the state’s ability to decide whether its local areas can have stricter rules than the state itself.  

The preemption issue strikes at the fundamental relationship between the federal government and the states. It is about whether the federal government can stop states from allowing their local areas to have stricter pesticide regulations.

Urge your U.S. Representative to sign the Congressional “Dear Colleague” Letter and uphold the right of local governments and states to restrict pesticides. Time sensitive: Please take action today (Friday, October 13, 2023) or as soon as possible. 

The targets for this Action are the U.S. House of Representatives.  

Thank you for your active participation and engagement!

Letter to U.S. Representative Requesting Sign-On 

I am writing to ask you to sign on to a “Dear Colleague” letter in opposition to any efforts to limit longstanding state and local authority to protect people, animals, and the environment by regulating pesticides. As Congress considers legislation related to agriculture, including the reauthorization of the Farm Bill and Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bills, I urge you to ensure that state, county, and local governments retain the right to protect their communities and set policies that best suit local needs. 

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) establishes the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee the registration, distribution, sale, and use of pesticides in the United States. Congress has long considered FIFRA to set a federal floor for pesticide policy, and under FIFRA, state, county, and local governments possess authority to enact supplementary standards. The majority of states – as well as hundreds of towns and cities – have adopted laws and ordinances related to pesticide safety. These include laws to restrict pesticide use near schools, parks, and playgrounds, protect drinking water supplies and wildlife, provide consumers with adequate information to make informed decisions about use and exposure, and equip workers with information and tools to minimize occupational risk. 

We are deeply concerned that legislative proposals to curtail state and local input regarding pesticide policy are contrary to FIFRA’s longstanding balance of federal, state, and local authority. These proposals seek to overturn decades of precedent and Supreme Court rulings that allow for democratically elected local governments to address the specific needs of their communities. State and local governments are often best positioned to respond quickly to emerging risks within their communities, and proposals to weaken their ability to respond could have a significant impact on public safety. Preemption of state and local authority could result in an immediate removal of protections for communities across the country, with the potential to limit accountability for manufacturers who fail to adequately warn consumers about the hazards posed by certain high-risk pesticides. 

As the House continues its work in the 118th Congress, we urge you to reject any and all harmful pesticide policy riders that would both diminish local authority and compromise Congress’ ability to deliver bipartisan legislation for the American people. Thank you for your consideration of this request. 

Please use this Congressional Sign on via QUILL to join on the “Dear College Letter.” (This link only will work for members of Congress).

Thank you letter to co-signers of “Dear Colleague” letter 

Current signers: McGovern*, Mace*, Blumenauer*, Adams, Barragán, Beyer, Bonamici, Bowman, Troy Carter, Cartwright, Casar, Casten, Castor, Castro, Chu, Clarke, Cohen, Connolly, Crockett, DeSaulnier, Dingell, Escobar, Frankel, Chuy García, Robert Garcia, Sylvia Garcia, Grijalva, Gottheimer, Hayes, Hoyle, Huffman, Jeff Jackson, Jackson Lee, Jacobs, Jayapal, Hank Johnson, Khanna, Barbara Lee, Leger Fernandez, Lieu, Lofgren, Lynch, McClellan, McCollum, Meng, Mfume, Moulton, Mullin, Nadler, Neguse, Norcross, Norton, Ocasio-Cortez, Pappas, Payne, Pettersen, Pingree, Porter, Pressley, Quigley, Ramirez, Raskin, Ross, Ruiz, Ruppersberger, Sánchez, Schakowsky, Schneider, Stansbury, Swalwell, Thanedar, Titus, Tlaib, Tokuda, Trone, Vargas, Velázquez, Waters, Watson Coleman, Wexton, Nikema Williams, Frederica Wilson.

I am writing to thank you for signing on to a “Dear Colleague” letter in opposition to any efforts to limit longstanding state and local authority to protect people, animals, and the environment by regulating pesticides. As Congress considers legislation related to agriculture, including the reauthorization of the Farm Bill and Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bills, I appreciate your efforts to ensure that state, county, and local governments retain the right to protect their communities and set policies that best suit local needs. 

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) establishes the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee the registration, distribution, sale, and use of pesticides in the United States. Congress has long considered FIFRA to set a federal floor for pesticide policy, and under FIFRA, state, county, and local governments possess authority to enact supplementary standards. The majority of states – as well as hundreds of towns and cities – have adopted laws and ordinances related to pesticide safety. These include laws to restrict pesticide use near schools, parks, and playgrounds, protect drinking water supplies and wildlife, provide consumers with adequate information to make informed decisions about use and exposure, and equip workers with information and tools to minimize occupational risk. 

We are deeply concerned that legislative proposals to curtail state and local input regarding pesticide policy are contrary to FIFRA’s longstanding balance of federal, state, and local authority. These proposals seek to overturn decades of precedent and Supreme Court rulings that allow for democratically elected local governments to address the specific needs of their communities. State and local governments are often best positioned to respond quickly to emerging risks within their communities, and proposals to weaken their ability to respond could have a significant impact on public safety. Preemption of state and local authority could result in an immediate removal of protections for communities across the country, with the potential to limit accountability for manufacturers who fail to adequately warn consumers about the hazards posed by certain high-risk pesticides. 

As the House continues its work in the 118th Congress, we urge you to reject any and all harmful pesticide policy riders that would both diminish local authority and compromise Congress’ ability to deliver bipartisan legislation for the American people. Thank you for considering this request and I appreciate your work on this. 

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

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3 Responses to “Urgent Action—Will Congress Defend Communities’ Right to Protect Public Health and the Environment?”

  1. 1
    Paula Morgan Says:

    Will they or won’t they protect we the people? We can no longer depend on Congress to protect we citizens. They have supporters and must vote or take action to protect their investors. Dark money has made this possible. Communities have a right to protect themselves and their environment against pesticides. Pesticide corporations may politicians ti look the other way but we, who live and work in our communities can not look another way. The politicians won’t help us so we must help ourselves by taking command over our own communities and making sure we protect ourselves, our homes, and our communities. There is no other way.
    Politicians lie but we don’t have time fro their promises which they never keep. We can keep our own promises to each other!!!

  2. 2
    priscilla martinez Says:

    We need to take better care of what is left of our environment, for people, wildlife, marine life, and plant life.

  3. 3
    Isabel Cervera Says:

    I am writing to thank you for signing on to a “Dear Colleague” letter in opposition to any efforts to limit longstanding state and local authority to protect people, animals, and the environment by regulating pesticides. As Congress considers legislation related to agriculture, including the reauthorization of the Farm Bill and Fiscal Year 2024 appropriations bills, I appreciate your efforts to ensure that state, county, and local governments retain the right to protect their communities and set policies that best suit local needs.

    The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) establishes the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to oversee the registration, distribution, sale, and use of pesticides in the United States. Congress has long considered FIFRA to set a federal floor for pesticide policy, and under FIFRA, state, county, and local governments possess authority to enact supplementary standards. The majority of states – as well as hundreds of towns and cities – have adopted laws and ordinances related to pesticide safety. These include laws to restrict pesticide use near schools, parks, and playgrounds, protect drinking water supplies and wildlife, provide consumers with adequate information to make informed decisions about use and exposure, and equip workers with information and tools to minimize occupational risk.

    We are deeply concerned that legislative proposals to curtail state and local input regarding pesticide policy are contrary to FIFRA’s longstanding balance of federal, state, and local authority. These proposals seek to overturn decades of precedent and Supreme Court rulings that allow for democratically elected local governments to address the specific needs of their communities. State and local governments are often best positioned to respond quickly to emerging risks within their communities, and proposals to weaken their ability to respond could have a significant impact on public safety. Preemption of state and local authority could result in an immediate removal of protections for communities across the country, with the potential to limit accountability for manufacturers who fail to adequately warn consumers about the hazards posed by certain high-risk pesticides.

    As the House continues its work in the 118th Congress, we urge you to reject any and all harmful pesticide policy riders that would both diminish local authority and compromise Congress’ ability to deliver bipartisan legislation for the American people. Thank you for considering this request and I appreciate your work on this.

Leave a Reply

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