NEWS RELEASE December 6, 2017
Contact: Karl Wagener, Executive Director
COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY PUBLISHES ENVIRONMENTAL ENFORCEMENT REPORT FOCUSING ON PESTICIDES
Recommends legislation to spend existing fee revenue, paid by the pesticide industry, to regulate pesticide use
HARTFORD – The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published a special report today that documents a dramatic decline in the number of inspections and enforcement actions aimed at the improper use of pesticides. The report recommends using fees paid by the pesticide industry to restore inspections and enforcement to adequate levels, and to improve pesticide regulation overall.
The report, Environmental Enforcement in Connecticut, Part 1: Pesticides, is the first in a series the CEQ is planning that will document the status of compliance with environmental laws in the state.
“It is no secret that environmental inspections and enforcement actions have been declining for many years,” said Council Chairman Susan Merrow, a resident of East Haddam. “In some programs, there is less need for inspections, but in others the cause of the decline clearly is related to the budget and the shrinking of the workforce of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP).”
“One unusual thing about pesticides,” Merrow continued, “is that the industry currently pays substantial fees to DEEP – more than enough to cover the costs of regulating pesticides. But the money isn’t used for that, it just flows into the state’s General Fund.”
Merrow continued, “As a model, we see how utilities pay the state’s costs of regulating utilities, and banks pay the costs of regulation banking. Why not pesticides? Pesticide-related businesses already are paying about three million dollars a year to the state, and we are recommending that those funds be used to regulate pesticide use.”
The report states that pesticide violations are commonplace, but penalties are rare. In part, this is because staffing in DEEP’s Pesticide management Program has declined by more than 50 percent over 15 years, and the number of inspections has declined by even more in just the last four years.
“Pesticides are used millions of times a month in Connecticut,” Merrow said, “and the legal, proper application of pesticides requires close attention to detail. We know that many people do not always follow the label which, for pesticides, is the law. The chances of being detected are very, very small. When DEEP does detect a violation, the result usually is a Notice of Violation, which does not include a penalty. At some point, the enforcement presence becomes insufficient to assure compliance. It’s hard to imagine everyone on the highway obeying the speed limit when they know there are no troopers around.”
According to the report, “The task of protecting Connecticut’s people, air and water from misuse of poisonous pesticides is broad in scope and challenging in scale. The six staff positions allocated to DEEP’s Pesticides Management Program are insufficient to fulfill this responsibility.”
The report is recommending action to:
- Direct fee revenue, paid by pesticide-related businesses – manufacturers, distributors, and commercial applicators – to the regulation of pesticide use in Connecticut.
- Replace paper reporting forms with electronic reporting of sales and use data. “The businesses would benefit from electronic submittal,” Merrow said, “and DEEP and the public would be able to analyze trends in the use of pesticides, which currently is not possible in Connecticut, as it is in some other states.”
- Restore monitoring of pesticide levels in Connecticut’s environment. The report states that pesticides are known to be present in most rivers, streams and lakes, but because DEEP stopped taking samples several years ago, little more is known.
- Close loopholes, including the one that allows a person to buy restricted-use pesticides from internet sellers without having the necessary certification to buy or use such chemicals.
- Reduce the burden on Connecticut’s environment, and on DEEP’s excessive workload, by doing more to promote sound techniques to control pests with fewer pesticides. “Many residents use pesticides when and where they are not needed,” the report concludes.
“The CEQ is working to help come up with solutions to deficiencies in several of DEEP’s operations, without just saying, ‘we need to spend more money,’” Merrow concluded. “In the unusual case of pesticides,“ Merrow said, “the money is there.”
The report is on the CEQ’s website at www.ct.gov/ceq.
The CEQ submits Connecticut’s annual report on the status of the environment to the Governor pursuant to state statutes. It also publishes special reports and makes recommendations for legislation to correct environmental problems. Additional responsibilities of the Council include review of projects of other state agencies, publication of the Environmental Monitor, and investigation of citizens’ complaints. The Council is a nine-member board that is independent of DEEP (except for administrative functions). The chairman and four other members are appointed by the Governor, two members by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and two by the Speaker of the House.