End run around the PGP fails

There are two agriculture bills bouncing around the Vermont Legislature right now. One started in the House (H.525) and one in the Senate (S.160). Last week the Republican Legislators representing Brandon and Pittsford (Collamore and Shaw) moved to insert new language into these bills to weaken state oversight of insect control districts which spray pesticides. There is only one insect control district in Vermont which sprays pesticides, so the impetus for the new language is assumed to be the leadership of the BLSG District (which includes Brandon and Pittsford).

The BLSG leadership was notably offended by the recent lawsuit and apparently devised a way to strike back. The language proposed for the House bill would have eliminated the requirement that insect control districts submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) for coverage under Vermont’s Pesticide General Permit (PGP). This NOI requires that the districts outline how they will make decisions, prevent harm to waterways and wildlife, be safe and effective, and use pesticides only as a last resort. Asking an insect control district to describe how they will operate and how they will avoid causing harm to people and the environment, and then holding them to those standards is a reasonable approach. More importantly, this permitting process was designed specifically so Vermont would be in compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act.

The new law pushed by the Republican Legislators would have given insect control districts a free pass to coverage under the PGP. The state would not have knowledge of the district’s plan, and therefore would be less able to evaluate whether they were operating properly or to know when to intervene. This was clearly a goal of the BLSG leadership (who have long repudiated state regulation) but another goal was that they would have been protected from lawsuits like the one that ended last month. That lawsuit was an appeal of the state’s approval of BLSG’s NOI. Had the bill become law, the operating plans BLSG described in its NOI would have been abandoned. BLSG could operate however they saw fit and would never again have to demean themselves by submitting an NOI or adhering to its standards. And there could be no more appeals of decisions about BLSG’s NOI.

Tonight we learned that neither the House or Senate agriculture bills will include BLSG’s egregious language. With the help of Senator Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) who in the last week heard concerns from many residents of the BLSG District, the Senate Agriculture Committee decided not to include any new language about pesticide permitting. I understand that neither Senate or House Agriculture bills will be burdened with such new language this year.

Congratulations to the crowd of District residents who took quick action to respond to the backroom tactics of BLSG. This extends a string of BLSG maneuvers that have backfired. Our network of enlightened citizens has grown and strengthened in the past week. Thanks to all of you, and stay relentless.

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