Montgomery Loses Court Challenge of Pesticide Ban (VIDEO)

A judge ruled Thursday the county could not regulate residents’ ability to use pesticides on their lawns, issuing a summary judgment in favor of lawn care companies and others who opposed the 2015 measure.

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Terrence McGann said the county ordinance conflicted with state laws regarding pesticides, which would have pre-empted the county’s ability to pass pesticide regulations.

“If the court allows Montgomery County’s ordinance to survive it will act as a local ‘veto’ on the state and federal use rules on pesticide,” McGann wrote.

County Councilmember George Leventhal, the lead sponsor of the legislation, said the council hadn’t decided whether to appeal the ruling.

“I’m very disappointed by the court’s ruling,” Leventhal said. “It sets a worrisome precedent for the ability of local government to protect their residents on vital issues of health and safety.” The law would have taken effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Seth Grimes, who helped author similar legislation for when he was a Takoma Park councilman, and Julie Taddeo, of the group Safe Grow Montgomery, both expressed their displeasure at the ruling.

The Scotts Company, which markets lawn fertilizers, issued this statement:

“We commend the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s decision today to uphold consumer rights and the pesticide registration process which is governed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Maryland. The health, safety and sustainability of consumer products is tightly regulated by federal and state officials to make certain that safe, effective options are available to residents seeking to keep their properties free from infestations and other home pests. By passing a sprawling local pesticide ban, the county council’s action would have undoubtedly caused confusion among the County’s residents, and would have undermined the effective use of pesticides in Montgomery County and surrounding areas.”

The council passed the ordinance 6-3, with Councilmembers Sidney Katz and Craig Rice, and Council President Roger Berliner opposed. The ordinance became law without County Executive Ike Leggett’s signature, who envisioned the law landing in a courtroom.

McGann criticized the council’s desire to legislate, even if it conflicts with state law.

“In other words, Montgomery County believes their law-making ability should function as water and fill any open crevice left by the state with impunity,” he wrote. “…The County Council can be reassured that the General Assembly has not rendered Montgomery County Neverland and its children ‘lost’ boys and girls.”

Leggett spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the county would defer to the council on whether to file an appeal. The county has 30 days before deciding, he said.

A council statement released Thursday afternoon said the members enacted the legislation because pesticides contain chemicals linked to the risk of developing cancer.

“With federal safeguards in the areas of public health and environmental protection dwindling, I believe that it is more important than ever for county government to work to protect the health and safety of its residents and our environment,” Council President Roger Berliner said. “However, the court has now ruled that the council’s legislation is preempted by the state’s regulatory regime that the court maintains is comprehensive. In light of the court’s decision, we will review our legal options to reduce our residents’ exposure to potentially carcinogenic chemicals, including appealing this adverse decision.”

Here is the judge’s ruling:

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug


3 Responses to “Montgomery Loses Court Challenge of Pesticide Ban (VIDEO)”

  1. Avatar
    On August 3, 2017 at 4:02 pm responded with... #

    The EPA is not protecting the Environment at all. They are protecting big business. No matter how much unadulterated science you throw at them industry based manipulated biased science in shady journals will win. Until you get big business out of politicians pockets will anything change.

    • Avatar
      On August 3, 2017 at 4:41 pm responded with... #

      I do not support the unnecessary use of pesticides on lawns and I believe that most people will not use them if properly instructed and advised on alternative ways to manage pests. But I do believe that both the City of Takoma Park and Montgomery County exercise an abusive over-reach by telling people what they can and cannot do on their own properties. Our tax levels are so blazingly high, you would think property owners are almost earning the right to autonomy and sovereignty in their own homes. Takoma Park’s tree ordiance is one example of another feel-good idea gone bad. People do not like being dictated to about how to manage trees on their properties or the expenses related to following the invasive process of doing it via the law, so they cut down saplings before they get large enough to be a problem and fall under the jurisdiction of the law. The conopy is not improving and trees are suffering because of crowding and erosion. Also, because of the statute, people are loathe to remove unsafe trees. You can’t just call a tree service without the city’s little fingers in your wallet. These types of policies do not come with advice or help–they are simply mechanisms to fleece people for money via fines and permits and to appease a group of people who do not have confidence or trust in their fellow homeowners to safely deal with what grows on their own property. There is no way to enforce these laws anyway. Not unless you turn everyone into a snitch and create more mistrust. Frankly, if I find Julie Taddeo or any of the other folks of her ilk on my property, she will be told in no uncertain terms to get the heck off or be escorted off by the police.

      • Avatar
        On August 15, 2017 at 12:27 pm responded with... #

        In this time we’re green space is rapidly shrinking in cities all over our nation It is of most importance that we have healthy nontoxic Lawns!

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