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County’s Pesticide Ban Overturned by Circuit Court Judge

August 4, 2017

Montgomery County’s 2015 Pesticide Law which banned lawn and garden pesticide use on private property has been overturned in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

   On August 3, Judge Terrence McGann ruled in favor of the professional landscape community stating the ban “flouts decades of State primacy in ensuring safe and proper pesticide use, undermines the State’s system of comprehensive and uniform product approval and regulation, and prohibits products and conduct that have been affirmatively approved and licensed by the State.”

   The ruling stated, “Maryland’s comprehensive program of pesticide regulation occupies the field of pesticide use and thus impliedly preempts the ordinance.” The court also held that the County’s ban on the application of certain pesticides on private property conflicted with Maryland law.

   In November 2016, the group known as RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), along with seven residents, six local businesses, and CropLife America, filed a legal challenge to Montgomery County’s ban on the application of hundreds of lawn and garden products on private property. Yesterday’s ruling was the culmination of that legal action. A grassroots coalition of more than 400 residents, homeowners, and licensed professionals worked together to oppose the ban.

   RISE President Aaron Hobbs said, “We are gratified that the Court agreed that the County’s ban on the use of State- and EPA-approved pesticides on private land is preempted by Maryland state law, which already provides uniform and comprehensive regulation of pesticide use across the state.”

   “The decision is a win for resident and community choice. Pesticides purchased and applied by consumers, and licensed professionals in the county help maintain healthy outdoor spaces for more than 1 million people who call the county home,” added Hobbs.

   Reaction from the County Council was swift.

   “With federal safeguards in the areas of public health and environmental protection dwindling, I believe that it is more important than ever for county government to work to protect the health and safety of its residents and our environment,” said Council President Roger Berliner and 2018 candidate for County Executive. “However, the court has now ruled that the Council’s legislation is preempted by the state’s regulatory regime that the court maintains is comprehensive. In light of the court’s decision, we will review our legal options to reduce our residents’ exposure to potentially carcinogenic chemicals, including appealing this adverse decision.”

   Councilmember At-Large and candidate for County Executive George Leventhal took to Twitter with a series of five tweets expressing his displeasure with the ruling.

   “It goes without saying that I am very disappointed with today’s court ruling regarding the county's Healthy Lawns Act,” wrote Leventhal on Twitter. “Studies have linked numerous chemicals found in lawn pesticides to cancer and other serious health conditions,” he continued in another tweet. “The Council sits as the Board of Health, but court ruling is that we are preempted from protecting residents from this health threat. This sets a worrisome precedent for the ability of local governments to protect their residents on vital issues of health and safety. I’m looking forward to reviewing our legal options on this matter.”

   In a statement released late yesterday afternoon, Leventhal said, “As the lead sponsor of Bill 52-14 and chair of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee, I am very disappointed by today’s ruling,” said Councilmember George Leventhal. “Studies have linked numerous chemicals found in lawn pesticides to cancer and other serious health conditions. The Council sits as the Board of Health, but the court has ruled that we are preempted from protecting our residents from this health threat. This sets a worrisome precedent for the ability of local governments to protect their residents on vital issues of health and safety. I’m looking forward to reviewing our legal options on this matter.”   

   Back in October 2015 the Council narrowly passed the Bill by a six to three vote. Leventhal was the bill’s chief sponsor. Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, Nancy Navarro and Hans Riemer, were co-sponsors. Councilmembers Craig Rice, Sidney Katz, and Roger Berliner voted against the bill.

 

Photo By DuffDudeX1 at English Wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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