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Montgomery County Councilmembers Dissatisfied with Circuit Court Ruling on Pesticides Ban

For Immediate Release: Friday, August 4, 2017

Montgomery County Councilmembers Dissatisfied with Circuit Court Ruling Overturning Cosmetic Pesticides Ban

Council will review options to protect residents from potentially dangerous chemical pesticides

 

ROCKVILLE, Md., Aug. 3, 2017—Today the Montgomery County Circuit Court ruled that the County’s cosmetic pesticides ban is preempted by Maryland law.  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 October 2015, the Council enacted Bill 52-14, Pesticides - Notice Requirements - Cosmetic Pesticide Use Restrictions, which would have prohibited the use of certain registered pesticides on private property starting on January 1, 2018.   The County is one of the few local jurisdictions to have such restrictions.  The Council enacted this legislation with a focus on pesticides that included chemicals linked to the risk of developing cancer.  

“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, who also serves as chair of the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee. “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.”   

The Annual County Health Rankings for Maryland has recognized Montgomery County as the “Healthiest County in Maryland” for the last four years.  The County is often at the forefront of initiatives that enhance public health like the cosmetic pesticides ban. 

County law provides that the Council is, and may act as, the County Board of Health.  In this capacity, the Council may adopt any regulation which a local board of health is authorized to adopt. 

“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.”   

Enacted Bill 52-14 can be viewed at:

http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/Resources/Files/bill/2014/20151006_52-14.pdf .

Release ID: 17-242
Media Contact: Sonya Healy 2407777926