In general, cities and counties are forbidden to regulate pesticides. Only state agencies can do so. This is due to a 1984 law the Pesticide lobby pushed through the California legislature called “Preemption.”
The California Coastal Commission is a state agency that can regulate pesticides in the Coastal Zone and has, since at least 1994, through a document called a Local Coastal Program (LCP), which codifies agreed-upon regulations between the Coastal Commission and a city or county.
Los Angeles County and the Coastal Commission did exactly this in October 2014, banning the worst rat poisons and other toxic pesticides in the unincorporated Santa Monica Mountains Coastal Zone LCP, (SMMLCP).
Poison Free Malibu asked the Malibu City Council to do the same (Gray area in map) as an Amendment to Malibu’s existing LCP because these chemicals are a huge source of the poisons feeding in from the south.
This well-established procedure, with ample precedent throughout coastal California, has been discouraged by city attorney Christi Hogin. Access the summary of her position in a video of the October 14 Malibu City Council meeting: https://youtu.be/j4hkYbGCDcY?t=4163.
There are three authoritative legal opinions opposing Hogin’s position: a letter from the LA County Counsel in September 2015 a letter from the Coastal Commission in January 2016 backing LA County and a Superior Court decision reaffirming the ability of the Coastal Commission to regulate pesticides with LCPs in September 2017. The court rejected the lawsuit and affirmed the ban.
Poison Free Malibu became aware of the Superior Court judgement only in September; this definitive ruling could not have been more clear. We informed the City Council of the ruling at the September 25 meeting, thinking it would remove all doubts and opposition. Soon thereafter, the National Park Service revealed that two more mountain lions were found poisoned in the Santa Monica Mountains.
We then came back to the October 14 City Council meeting in hopes of confirming a date for passing an LCP amendment. Despite the Superior Court ruling, Hogin still argued against it, saying that since the Superior Court decision is being appealed, it was not yet in effect. She also claimed difficulty to enforce the LCP pesticide regulations.
The conclusion is: The regulations are working fine!
The great majority of the poisons are put out by the commercial pest control companies such as Western Exterminator, Dewey, Ecolab, Orkin, and others. They very quickly learn the new rules and follow them. Some homeowners may acquire and use the poisons illegally, but the contribution is small. Simply informing individuals of the new rules has been effective.
DO IT NOW
The beauty of the LCP amendment strategy is that we can do it now, reserving at least some poison-free region in California to protect our wildlife. It has many precedents, it could not be more well established legally, and it is strongly supported by the Coastal Commission.
Inspired by the Los Angeles County’s October 2014 SMMLCP language, it will protect us from rodent poisons, herbicides (e.g., glyphosate), and insecticides that are being applied all over our community.
Here is bare-bones, simple language proposed for the Malibu LCP pesticide amendment:
“The use of pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides or any toxic chemical substance that has the potential to significantly degrade biological resources shall be prohibited. The eradication of invasive plant species or habitat restoration shall consider first the use of non-chemical methods for prevention and management such as physical, mechanical, cultural, and biological controls. Herbicides may be selected only after all other non-chemical methods have been exhausted. Herbicides shall be restricted to the least toxic product and method and, to the maximum extent feasible, shall be biodegradable, derived from natural sources, and used for a limited time.”
The October 14 Malibu City Council discussion ended with the agreement to continue the issue as an agenda item at a meeting in the “near future.”
For more information and how to contribute toward passing this as soon as possible and stop these tragic deaths in our own backyard: poisonfreemalibu.org.
By Kian Schulman, Poison Free Malibu