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Montgomery County Council Appeals Circuit Court Ruling Overturning Cosmetic Pesticides Ban

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Montgomery County Council Appeals Circuit Court Ruling Overturning Cosmetic Pesticides Ban

Council directs Office of the County Attorney to file appeal to protect residents and County law

 

ROCKVILLE, Md., Aug. 16, 2017—Today the Montgomery County Council directed the Office of the County Attorney to appeal the Montgomery County Circuit Court ruling that overturned the County’s cosmetic pesticides ban.  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.

 

Complete Lawn Care, Inc., et al. v. Montgomery County invalidated certain provisions of Bill 52-14 because the Circuit Court found that County regulation of the use of pesticides on private property is preempted by state law. 

 

“Our Council’s legal team advised us that the County would have a reasonable chance of prevailing in an appeal of the Circuit Court’s decision,” said Council President Roger Berliner, who also serves as chair of the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee.  “It is important that the Council is allowed to protect our community from the threat posed by pesticides on private lawns.  Moreover, the broad scope of the court’s decision threatens our existing regulatory regime and other efforts short of a ban, even if the ban itself is ultimately deemed in direct conflict with state law.  We have also been advised that an appeal will not carry significant costs, as the work involved can be absorbed as part of the Office of the County Attorney’s normal workload.  Accordingly, my colleagues and I agree that an appeal is in the public interest.”  

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.

“I am delighted that the Council is appealing the Circuit Court ruling on the pesticides ban,” said Councilmember George Leventhal, who was the lead sponsor of Bill 52-14 and serves as chair of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee.  “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 that should be overturned.”    

 

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. 

“With Trump’s EPA protecting the interests of chemical companies instead of our residents, it is more important than ever that local communities take action to ensure that our children are not exposed to hazardous chemicals,” said Council Vice President Hans Riemer.  “This decision takes that right away from us and should be overturned.”

“Too many people believe that because a pesticide is allowed for use by the federal government and by the state, then it must be safe,” said Councilmember Marc Elrich.  “Yet scientists, medical researchers and physicians advocate for great caution when using pesticides.  Pesticide use simply is not necessary on lawns - it is not good for the environment, our children or even our pets. It is important that we appeal this decision.” 

“I was disappointed with the recent Circuit Court decision that overruled the ban on certain pesticides in the County, but I am pleased that the Council is appealing this ruling,” said Councilmember Nancy Floreen. “Having battled breast cancer myself, I am particularly sensitive to the need to limit our exposure to toxic chemicals. I am concerned with the public’s health and welfare, and that all residents, particularly our children, stand to benefit from reduced exposure to pesticides.”

“While I was disappointed with the Circuit Court’s ruling, I am pleased that the Council will be appealing this decision,” said Councilmember Nancy Navarro. “I have received hundreds of emails from constituents in just the last few days, and there is nearly unanimous support for an appeal. The County’s leadership with regard to local health and environmental policies has been a great source of pride for our residents. It is important that the Council be able to act in the best interest of County residents by ensuring we maintain our high standards for quality of life.”

 

Enacted Bill 52-14 can be viewed at:

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

Release ID: 17-253
Media Contact: Sonya Healy 2407777926