Ever since awareness grew of the risks of pesticides in the 1960s, governments at the federal and state level have enacted laws to ban or regulate pesticide use. The Maryland Agriculture article is one set of such laws. Last week Maryland’s intermediate appellate Court addressed the power of a local government to enact more stringent pesticide regulation, in a case called Montgomery County, Maryland v. Complete Lawn Care.
The opinion indicates that in 2015 the Montgomery County Council passed a law restricting cosmetic use of certain pesticides on private and county-owned property. The law included, among other things, requirements for pesticide retailers to make available to purchasers notice signs, approved labels and materials explaining pesticide usage and that other products were available. It required applicators to provide notice markers near locations where pesticides were applied.
The law also required that only certain listed pesticides could be used on such areas as lawns, playgrounds or children’s facilities, with certain exceptions such as where chemicals were registered with the Environmental Protection Agency for such purposes as control of weeds or invasive species, or control of biting or stinging insects. Lawn Care companies and others challenged the ordinance, arguing that Maryland State Law pre-empted or reserved to the Legislature the exclusive right to enact such legislation, and the trial Court agreed and issued an injunction preventing the law from going into effect.
The appellate Court disagreed, and found that the County Council did have the right to enact such local legislation, reversed the lower Court’s decision and upheld the statute. After an exhaustive review of Maryland law, the Court found that there was no preemption of such local pesticide regulation. It found no such scheme in state regulations, that such local laws did not conflict with the purposes of the State regulatory approach, and that the General Assembly actually recognized regulation of pesticides by localities.
The Court said: “we conclude that the citizens of Montgomery County are not powerless to restrict the use of certain toxins that have long been recognized as ‘economic poisons’ and which pose risks to the public health and environment.”
Thomas Patrick Ryan is a partner in the Rockville law firm of McCarthy Wilson, which specializes in civil litigation.