After a nearly six-year fight to stop Montgomery County, Md.’s ban on the use of state-approved pesticides on private lawns, legal remedies available to challenge the county’s law on state pre-emption grounds have been exhausted, according to RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment).
“We believe the law will have a negative effect on pest control,” Karen Reardon, RISE VP of public affairs, says. “It also potentially will create a market for unlicensed applicators to treat lawns in the county. Such applicators do not participate in the training and certification required of licensed applicators.”
Unlike applications that previously were lawful, these applications would not have the recordkeeping required by Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) as part of its compliance tracking, and state-required signage may not be displayed, she adds: “The county’s ban apparently will rely on neighbor-on-neighbor enforcement, rather than the usual systematic regulatory and enforcement program at MDA.”
In mid-July, Maryland’s Court of Appeals denied the petition of Complete Lawn Care Inc., et al, v. Montgomery County, seeking judicial review of the Court of Special Appeals’ May 2019 decision upholding Montgomery County’s ban on most pesticides used on private lawns and landscapes.
A coalition of county lawncare, tree care and landscape professionals; growers; individual residents; homeowners associations and many others worked to bring information about state and federal pesticide regulation and product benefits to the county council’s deliberations about Bill 52-14 during 2015. Bill 52-14 passed in October 2015, and included a ban on state-approved pesticide use on county property.
In 2016, RISE and parent organization CropLife America, along with companies, growers and individuals, challenged the law’s private property ban provisions as pre-empted by existing state law. The Circuit Court for Montgomery County ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in Complete Lawn Care, et al, v. Montgomery County, Md., in 2017. The county appealed the decision, and in a May 2, 2019, opinion, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals upheld the county’s ban on the use of lawn and landscape pesticides on private property.
RISE and other plaintiffs sought judicial review from Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, but the Court of Appeals denied that petition on July 11, 2019.
“It will now be illegal for county residents to treat lawn and landscape pest and plant health problems on their own private property with state- and federally approved pesticide products they can buy from retailers,” Reardon says. “State-licensed lawn and landscape professionals will not be able to apply these products, either.”