As the Montgomery County Council prepares to return next week from its August recess, council member Roger Berliner is making a move to limit the scope of the pesticide-banning bill proposed last year by President George Leventhal.
In a memo to the council, Berliner writes that the pesticide bill as proposed is too far-reaching and may be invalidated by a court. Instead, he says, the council should take smaller steps to limit pesticide use instead of imposing the general bans proposed in the original bill.
As proposed by Leventhal, the bill would ban pesticide use on private lawns and all county property, including playing fields, but provide exceptions for agricultural purposes and golf courses. The bill would allow stores in the county to continue selling pesticides.
“As one of our colleagues confided to me, [the pesticide bill] as introduced is akin to going from 0 to 60 mph in mere seconds,” Berliner wrote in the memo. “Our residents have not been educated as to the risks associated with pesticide use, and our current county regime is both extremely limited in scope and enforcement. If we move too quickly to ban products used by thousands of residents on their homes and by our parks people to keep our playing fields in acceptable shape, we run the risk of a significant citizen rebellion, an expensive and uphill legal fight, and millions in additional costs to maintain our playing fields—if they can be maintained at all.”
Berliner serves as chairman of the council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, which is reviewing Leventhal’s version of the bill.
Instead of a general ban, Berliner is proposing that the council ban pesticide use only on lawns on county property and set a goal to reduce non-agricultural pesticide use in the county by 50 percent within three years.
Berliner’s amendments to the bill would also ban pesticide use on county playgrounds and in stream valleys, but would allow them to be used on county playing fields. However, the county would be required to test organic methods on the playing fields to determine if those methods are effective.
On Tuesday, Leventhal said he disagrees with Berliner and believes the general pesticide ban on private lawns is an important part of the proposed legislation. He said he may have to compromise on the proposal to ban pesticides from being used on athletic fields in the county.
“I’m optimistic that I have the votes to pass a very strong bill,” Leventhal said. “My hope is that we pass a bill close to the one I introduced.”
Berliner said he’s not sure if his amendments will be supported by his council colleagues.
“We’ll see how it plays out,” Berliner said. “I think this is going to be one of those close votes before the council.”
The Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee is expected to review the bill when it meets Sept. 17. The bill would then go to the full council for review Oct. 6.
Photo Above: Council President George Leventhal, provided