Assembly Member Damon Connolly's Caltrans Integrated Pest Management (IPM) bill (AB99) made it through the Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials (ESTM) committee hearing this week. Sonoma Safe Agriculture, Safe Schools (Sonoma SASS) and Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CaTS) were asked to particulate as expert witness at the hearing. A video of the proceedings is provided below.
AB99 would provide communities with some local control over the pesticides used by California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) on state highways. Numerous counties in California have passed ordinances banning the use of synthetic pesticides for routine, non-emergency land maintenance. Caltrans, however, is exempt from local rules and is allowed to spray pesticides with far less oversight and environmental precautions. In their 1992 Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Caltrans stated a goal to use Integrated Pest Managements (IPM) principles to reduce pesticide use by 80% in 2012. Unfortunately, Caltrans' pesticide use has only increased. Since 1992, Caltrans continues to use over 400,000 pounds of concentrated pesticides annually in California. AB99 would require Caltrans to use IPM to eliminate unnecessary pesticide use.
AB99 is supported by a broad coalition of over 75 organizations from throughout California including the Sierra Club, California Coastkeeper Alliance, Environmental Working Group, California Nurses for Environmental Health and Justice, American Bird Conservancy, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Pesticide Action Network, and Californians for Pesticide Reform. For more information see the state assembly staff report below prepared for the ESTM hearing:
Opposition to the bill comes primarily from the American Chemistry Council and other members of the chemical industry and associates (primarily large agricultural operations). These groups predictably oppose all legislature that limits in any way the use of toxic chemicals. Interestingly enough, these groups are in support of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation's "Sustainable Pesticide Management" initiative, which points to the fact that the proposed SPM program will NOT be about reducing pesticide use. This will be the subject of a future blog article. It's important to note that despite allegations from the opposition, AB99 allows for emergency pesticide use in cases that impact public health, fire risk, and invasive species management. It also provides Caltrans with a mechanism to use chemical treatment in situations where other methods have not been effective.
AB99 will next be heard in front of the Transportation Committee on April 24th. The economic interests opposing this bill are strong but there is strength in numbers. If you are an organization, farm, or elected official (past and present), please show your support by signing on to one of our support letters by April 7th, 2023.