Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), federal and state governments have express authority to regulate pesticides. In 1991, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled FIFRA does not prevent local regulation of pesticides, as long as local regulation is allowed by the state. Therefore, while some states have specifically prevented county and local governments from regulating pesticides, other states have allowed local pesticide regulation in certain situations.
Pesticide preemption means the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state lead agencies — not local governments — are responsible for regulating pesticides. After a pesticide is federally registered, each state’s lead regulatory agency is considered a co-regulator for that pesticide because each state can impose additional restrictions or deny the pesticide’s registration, if needed.
Recently, however, city and county officials across the country are trying to regulate the sale and use of pesticides in their jurisdictions. This is a move that sets stricter standards and ignores the decisions already made by the EPA and state lead agencies.
Currently, 44 states have a pesticide preemption law; that is, they adhere to the EPA’s and state lead agency decisions on the use, sale and distribution of pesticides. Because Alaska, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland and Nevada do not have pesticide preemption laws, the pesticide regulations in their cities and counties may vary.
In addition, officials in seven pesticide preemption states — Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Wisconsin — are seeking changes that would enact stricter standards than the EPA and state lead agencies. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) maintains that only the EPA and state lead agencies should regulate the use of pesticides, and its members are fighting these proposed changes. The topic was one of the main talking points at the NPMA’s Legislative Day event this year.