New bill will give municipalities power to protect local public health, water and land
DENVER – Today the People and Pollinators Action Network applauded the introduction of Senate Bill 189, Majority Leader Steve Fenberg’s bill to repeal Colorado’s statutory preemption of local control of pesticide use.
“Local elected officials are best positioned to understand their own unique challenges about how to best protect their local public health, water and land,” said Sue Anderson of People and Pollinators Action Network. “This bill will give municipalities the power to decide how to best manage local pesticide use to safeguard the health of kids playing outside, the bees and butterflies we rely on to pollinate our food and gardens and the resources that define us as a state.”
Laws passed in 1996 and 2006 tie the hands of local governments that want to manage local pesticide use. Pesticides can pollute water, disrupt ecosystems, contribute to biodiversity loss, degrade soil health, reduce soil’s capacity to store carbon, destroy habitat and contribute to underlying causes for some aspects of climate change. While it makes sense for the state to regulate the registration and labeling of pesticides, local governments should have the option to adopt more stringent pesticide use and application standards that reflect their community’s unique vulnerabilities and risk tolerance.
“Even though pesticides can be effective in killing insects, weeds or other pests, they do pose a significant risk to people, pollinators and other wildlife. Children, in particular, are at risk when they run and play outside,” said Amy Kenreich, a parent and Denver resident. “I call on Colorado legislators to protect my kids from the risks of pesticides when they play outside. The American Academy of Pediatrics noted robust evidence linking pesticide exposure to pediatric cancers and adverse neurodevelopment, including reductions in IQ and attention/hyperactivity disorder. I’d rather have my child step on a thorn in the grass than be exposed to those risks.”
If SB 189 passes, local governments and voters could decide to restrict the use of specific pesticides beyond current drinking water limits, create a pesticide-free buffer around facilities with vulnerable populations, such preschools, hospitals or nursing homes, and protect fragile ecosystems. In addition, municipalities could require informational signage in retail stores selling bee-toxic pesticides or plants treated with them.
“Colorado is made up of an enormous variety of unique communities, ecosystems and economies. As such, local decision-makers and local voters are best positioned to shape and inform local policy on a range of issues. Pesticide use is one of those issues,” said Peter Wadden, town of Vail watershed education coordinator. “As a steward of our local waterway, I am eager to have the latitude to adopt pesticide standards that protect our fragile ecosystems while serving the needs of our community to maintain a beautiful, diverse mountain landscape.”
There are 14 U.S. states that expressly allow local government regulation over some aspects of pesticide use and application, or at least do not preempt such regulation. Examples of localities that have chosen to use this authority include Kern County and other California counties which adopted protective pesticide buffer zones around homes and schools and Montgomery County, Maryland, which banned pesticides that improve the appearance of non-agricultural green spaces on turfgrass to protect children’s health.