Bill to bar local governments from regulating pesticides killed

March 21, 1992|By Marina Sarris and Timothy Wheeler | Marina Sarris and Timothy Wheeler,Annapolis Bureau

A bill that would have barred counties and municipalities from regulating pesticide use died in the House of Delegates yesterday by a 57-72 vote.

The defeat was a blow for farmers and the lawn-care industry, who are trying to negate a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year upholding the right of local governments to enact pesticide use rules more stringent than federal law.

The measure, which would have left pesticide regulation in the hand of the state Agriculture Department, had the backing of the Schaefer administration and the House leadership.

But it was fought by environmentalists, who argued that local XTC officials know their jurisdictions best and should be allowed to regulate pesticides the way they see fit.

Del. Peter Franchot, an opponent, complained that the bill would enable the state agriculture secretary to give a utility permission to spray pesticides along its lines.

But a local official would be the one to know whether those lines run next to a school, nursing home or other place where spraying may be undesirable, the Montgomery County Democrat said. In such a case, a local government should be able to regulate the spraying, he said.

Supporters argued that the state employs the most experts on pesticides. They should be the one drawing up regulations, not less-experienced county officials, they said.

No local governments have enacted pesticide regulations since the Supreme Court ruling, but Prince George's County has petitioned to lift a federal injunction barring it from enforcing an ordnance requiring notification of neighboring property owners before a lawn is sprayed with herbicides or pesticides.

Prince George's and Montgomery counties adopted similar ordnances in the mid-1980s, only to have them blocked in court by the lawn-care industry.

The state has since adopted regulations requiring the posting of yards treated by commercial lawn-care companies.

Though the pesticide bill may be dead in Annapolis this year, Congress is considering a similar bill that would accomplish the same thing, authorizing only states to regulate pesticide use.

Today in Annapolis

9 a.m. House Appropriations Committee meets to discuss state budget, Room 130, House Office Building.

2:30 p.m. House of Delegates convenes, State House.

There are 17 days remaining in the 1992 General Assembly session.

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