Daily News Archive
From April 18, 2001

Fairfax, California Ordinance Disputed by Pest Control Operators of California

On March 29, 2001 Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP's Daily News reported on Fairfax, California's recent adoption of a local ordinance that bans certain hazardous pesticides from being used on town property and requires homeowners to notify their neighbors and post notification signs when a pesticide is applied on their lawn. The ordinance, which went into effect April 1, 2001 is currently being contested by the Pest Control Operators of California (PCOC) association.

PCT Online reports that PCOC is challenging the ordinance because they feel California state law preempts the local ordinance. PCOC's attorney wrote a letter requesting amending the ordinance to be consistent with state law or face legal action.

Harvey Logan, executive vice president of PCOC told PCT Online that the Fairfax Town Council "had overstepped its bounds and the [Department of Pesticide Regulation] has the full authority regarding any pesticide laws." Logan went on to state that PCOC "didn't receive any sort of advanced notice about [the ordinance]. All of the sudden, the ordinance was enacted and [PCOC was] notified by some concerned [pest control operators (PCOs)] in the area."

Logan ended by saying, "I am sure PCOs in the area are hoping the ordinance will be dropped."

Environmentalists believe the role of states and local jurisdictions is a critical means of exerting a level of protection that the public deserves. The role of states is well established. There are no federal prohibitions on states exceeding the federal standards regarding pesticide use. States have the authority to regulate the sale or use of pesticides as long as the state regulation does not permit a sale or use prohibited by section 24(a) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), USC 136v(a).

The authority of local governments is a different story. While the chemical industry had argued for over a decade in the 1980s that FIFRA prohibits local regulation of pesticides, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the rights of cities and towns to regulation pesticides under FIFRA. The court found on June 21, 1991 that FIFRA "leaves the allocation of regulatory authority to the 'absolute discretion' of the states themselves, including the option of leaving local regulation of pesticides in the hands of local authorities."

However, since the Supreme Court ruled, 41 states, whose legislatures have been subject to chemical industry lobbying, have acted to preempt local authority to regulate pesticides. Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP and environmentalists have always viewed this prohibition of local laws as antithetical to public health protection and local police powers (such as smoking ordinances, building codes, etc.). However, despite attempts to squelch local action, increasingly local governments and other public bodies with land holdings, such as school districts, have chosen to adopt policies providing notification of pesticide spraying and alternative approaches to pest management.