Senator Davis, Representative Martin, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on State and Local Government, my name is Sarah Lakeman and I am the Sustainable Maine Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. I appreciate this opportunity to testify in opposition to LD 1505.
The Maine Board of Pesticides Control lists on its website 27 Maine municipalities with ordinances regulating pesticides. These towns range in size, exist on the coast and inland, are rural and urban. Several additional communities are considering ordinances. It is worth noting why many citizens and municipalities around Maine feel compelled to take local action to protect citizens, wildlife, rivers, lakes, and our coastal waters, all so critical to our health, quality of life, and economic prosperity, from the effects of pesticide application and runoff.
According to MRSA 22 §1471-X, which was passed into law in 1997, “It is the policy of the State to work to find ways to use the minimum amount of pesticides needed to effectively control targeted pests in all areas of application.” Unfortunately, the years following the adoption of this policy saw what could aptly be classified as an explosion of pesticide distribution in Maine. According to data from the Maine Board of Pesticides Control, during the period from 1995 to 2011, the amount of pesticides distributed into Maine increased by 700% from 600,000 pounds to more than 5.7 million!
With this kind of record at the state level, it is small wonder that municipalities and their citizens are working at the local level to protect themselves, which they are permitted to do by Maine’s constitutional Home Rule provision. It is worth noting that there is lengthy legal precedent affirming this right.
In the late 1980s, Central Maine Power sued the Town of Lebanon, Maine because the town sought to regulate the use of dangerous herbicides within town limits. The Maine Supreme Court heard the case in 1990 and ruled in favor of the Town.
In 1991 the U.S. Supreme Court heard Wisconsin Public Intervenor v. Ralph Mortier, a case involving the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and found that this federal law does not prohibit municipalities from adopting stricter standards than those of the federal or state government when it comes to the use of the chemicals regulated under the Act.
The chemical industry has been intensively lobbying state legislators and policy makers to undermine the intent and letter of these rulings for decades. In many places around the country, these groups have been successful. Except here.
Maine is one of only seven states that have been able to withstand the onslaught of attacks over the past 25 years by powerful industries acting through groups like RISE and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is an organization that invites state legislators from around the country to participate in closed-door meetings with industry and then return to their states and introduce “model legislation.” These bills have been hand-crafted by big business to weaken, among other policies, state and local environmental laws that citizens have fought for and enacted over decades. In fact, the language of LD 1505, as introduced by the governor, is remarkably similar to the model legislation created by ALEC’s board in 1995 and updated in 2013. I’ve included with this testimony a copy of that language from ALEC’s website.
The language of LD 1505 is also similar to other bills seeking to undermine Maine’s Home Rule, all of which have been defeated by previous Legislatures. The 127th Legislature considered LD 1543, “An Act to Create Stability in the Control of Pesticides.” In 1991, just after the Maine Supreme Court ruling mentioned above and at the time of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling about FIFRA, the Maine Legislature considered LD 1289, “An Act to Promote Comprehensive and Consistent Statewide Environmental Policy and Regulation.”
These attempts by the chemical industry to undermine the right of municipalities have no place in Maine where our citizens are rightly proud of our long tradition of Home Rule. We urge the Committee to reject LD 1505, the latest attempt to weaken Home Rule, one of the foundational cornerstones of Maine democracy, which is often the envy of other states.