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AB99 (Connolly) Passes the State Assembly, moves to the Senate!

Updated: May 23, 2023

"I want to thank you as well for authoring this bill...we certainly don't want to be risking people's public health, we don't want pesticides getting into water supplies...I hope Caltrans also starts to think a little more globally about what they are doing on their right of ways and on their property. I do think you are finding a good balance here, as you can tell by the very enthusiastic phone calls, the people of California have values about sustainability and about not using toxic materials, and this bill has definitely touched a nerve with them. I will be supporting the bill today." Assembly Member Laura Friedman, Chair, California State Assembly Transportation Committee on Assembly Bill 99. Transportation Committee meeting, April 24, 2023

Assembly Bill 99 (Connolly) officially passed out of the California State Assembly today (May 22, 2023) and is heading to the Senate!

A huge THANK YOU Assemblymember Damon Connolly (D) for listening to our local concerns and having the vision and leadership to author AB99.

THANK YOU to the 84 public interest organizations, 25 farms/ranches, 30 elected officials, hundreds of concerned citizens, and the Napa, Sonoma, Marin, and Humboldt Board of Supervisors for officially supporting AB99 and helping build the momentum that has seen this bill through the State Assembly hurdles.

AB99 would require the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to adopt a statewide policy to only use pesticides as a last resort. It would also require Caltrans to publish data on their pesticide use annually and provide 24-hour notifications before spraying. If these proposed requirements seem reasonable it is because they are. Caltrans noted in 1992 that it was a reasonable goal to reduce pesticide use by 80%; Caltrans' pesticide use, however, has only increased since then (over 420,000 lbs in 2022).

Patty Clary, Director of California for Alternatives to Toxics (CaTS) has been working with Caltrans and the counties of Humboldt and Mendocino to successfully discontinue the use of pesticides for routine road maintenance on all state highways for over 35 years. Her organization's research on pesticide use practices by Caltrans is shocking ("we estimate that in 34 years since 1989, Caltrans applied 12 to 14 million pounds of herbicidal compounds".)

It goes without saying that the only major opposition to AB99 is the chemical industry. Caltrans spent over $2,069,000.00 in 2022 on herbicide products alone. This, of course, does not consider the costs of maintaining spray trucks, hazardous waste use training or compliance, or costs to human health and the environment.

The huge difference in pesticide application rates from county to county is a smoking gun that Caltrans has overstated the "need" for the continued use of synthetic chemicals for road maintenance.

"In one county with 183 state highway miles within its borders, 14,372 pounds of herbicide were used in 2022— a rate of 78.3 pounds per highway mile. In another county where herbicide-free IPM vegetation management is practiced on county roadsides, Caltrans nevertheless applied 6,341 pounds of herbicide along 257 miles of state highway, a rate of 24.7 pounds per mile. In other counties the rate is 12, 39, 42, or 66 pounds per mile, and so on. This inconsistent and unsafe management style would be cured by an IPM policy as envisioned by AB99." Patty Clary, California State Assembly Transportation Committee Hearing

These differences in application rates are not correlated to expected discrepancies due to climate or built environment considerations. AB99 is the tool we need in California to stop unnecessary pesticide use and the related toxic exposure to communities and the environment.

Sonoma Safe Agriculture, Safe Schools (Sonoma SASS) was asked to provide primary support witness testimony at the recent California State Assembly hearings. Below is a video of the April 24th, 2023 Transportation Committee hearing featuring Assemblymember Damon Connolly, Sonoma SASS Director Megan Kaun, and CaTS Director Patty Clary.

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