It’s been a crazy year for pesticide legislation in the General Assembly in Hartford and it’s hard to tell what the result will be. Here’s what’s been happening:
Several bills were introduced in February and Connecticut Audubon Society supported all of them. One would have banned the use of lawn pesticides in parks (Senate Bill 914), another in all schools from 12th grade down(SB 981), and a third to ban the use of two specific pesticides in the coastal area (House Bill 6438). (You can find details of the bills and our positions on our Tracking Legislation page.)
In fact, our Connecticut State of the Birds 2013 report detailed how pesticides were among the reasons that 17 bird species that nest in Connecticut and eat only insects they catch on the wing were experiencing a dramatic, long-term population decline.
All these bills were in addition to a law from several years ago that banned the use of lawn pesticides in pre-schools, elementary schools and middle schools.
But then we were told that businesses and interest groups that were unhappy with that school ban – pesticide manufacturers and school groundskeepers, among them – were working together to overturn the school ban, and that they were likely to succeed. The only way to avoid that, we were told, was through a compromise: the General Assembly would pass a bill creating a task force of experts to study the pesticide issue and make recommendations for the state.
I have no idea what the pro-pesticide side thought about that compromise but many environmental organizations opposed it. They feared that it would be taken over by pro-pesticide members and that its conclusions would be skewed in favor of pesticides.
Connecticut Audubon Society did not necessarily agree. We, along with Audubon Connecticut (the state office of the National Audubon Society) and the Rivers Alliance, expressed our view that if a wildlife biologist were added to the task force, we would support it.
But then the task force bill was sent to the Education Committee for review, and it was killed.
But that presumably meant that the compromise was dead. Within days, the bill that would ban the use of pesticides in high schools (SB 981) was revived, in the Education Committee.
Connecticut Audubon Society supports this bill. Given the ups and downs of pesticide legislation this session, we really have no idea what its fate will be. But we’ll be asking our members to get in touch with their legislators about it next week.
Again, details of the bills and our positions are on our Tracking Legislation page. — Tom Andersen, director of communications and community outreach