Judge Strikes Down Montgomery County’s Pesticide Ban
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Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann on Thursday struck down the county’s general pesticide ban in a ruling that opponents of the ban called precedent setting.
McGann ruled that state law preempts the law that the County Council passed in 2015.
The county law, set to go into effect in January, would have banned residents from using certain pesticides on private property. It was intended to limit the overuse of pesticides that have been the subject of studies showing a general harm to the people, animals and the environment. However, McGann ordered that the law not go into effect as scheduled.
“By generally banning the use of registered pesticides, the ordinance prohibits and frustrates activity that is intended to be permitted by state law, which conflicts with and is thus preempted by state law,” McGann ruled. “The county’s ordinance flouts decades of state primacy in ensuring safe and proper pesticide use, undermines the state’s system of comprehensive and uniform product approval and regulation, and prohibits products and conduct that have been affirmatively approved and licensed by the state.”
The County Council passed the law by a 6-3 vote despite warnings from the state’s Office of the Attorney General and County Executive Ike Leggett that it would likely draw a preemption challenge in court. Leggett declined to sign the bill due to his concerns, but it became law because it passed with a veto-proof majority.
It’s not clear if the county will appeal McGann’s ruling.
The case was brought by plaintiffs including county residents, local lawn care groups, companies that produce pesticides and the pesticide industry group Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment.
“The judge made it so clear that the County Council cannot override the state government and he has also made it very clear that the regulation of pesticides is so comprehensive by both the state and federal governments that there is nothing else the county can do with its ban on pesticides,” Gus Bauman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said after the ruling. “It’s definitely precedent setting, which is one reason why this case was brought before this court at this time on these issues.”
Seth Grimes, a former Takoma Park City Council member who helped pass a similar pesticide ban in that city, said outside the courtroom he was disappointed by the ruling.