Environmental groups say new Vt. pesticide rules fall short

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 6:57 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers have updated the state’s pesticide regulations for the first time in over 30 years, but some environmental groups say the changes don’t go far enough.

“The bottom line of this regulation is that Vermont is in a better place than it was,” said David Huber with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

“It’s just not enough,” said Dale Azearia with the Conservation Law Foundation.

State officials say the new rules bring the state in line with federal regulations. “The pesticide regulations were in place since 1991, and so what we have done is we have taken the 91 regulations and modernized them so that it is keeping up with modern trends and pesticide usage that we’re seeing across the state as well as nationally,” Huber said.

But CLF and other groups say that while the state’s intentions are good, the new rules don’t go far enough to protect the health of humans or the ecosystem. “As climate change is getting worse, it’s bringing new and more pests into the area that need to be controlled. If we don’t take steps to control pests in ways that are sustainable and resilient, we’re going to be creating bigger problems for ourselves,” Azearia said. “I think we missed opportunities. One would have been to use more integrated pest management -- which is where you apply pesticides only as a last resort. Another is that we didn’t incorporate enough environmental assessment of the impacts of these pesticides. And we also didn’t do enough to protect bees and other pollinators.”

The rule changes include a requirement that people using commercial pesticides provide more notification to landowners and the public. There’s also a new permit process for mosquito spraying, and there are more restrictions to protect pollinators.

“Their main takeaway, I think, is that it just didn’t go far enough on emerging issues, and emerging issues are just that -- they’re emerging. Those can certainly be addressed in separate rulemaking or even in other venues,” Huber said.

Azearia says that CLF, along with other environmental groups, will be requesting the Legislature to take another look at the rules. “When we’re updating something, we should re-think it, we shouldn’t just assume that the status quo -- which is what we’ve maintained here -- is good enough,” he said.

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