The city of Cannon Beach is now restricted from using pesticides containing controversial chemicals known as “neonicotinoids” on city-owned property without very good reason, according to a resolution the City Council passed at its Nov. 4 meeting.
Neonicotinoids, a class of insecticide found in products manufactured by Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and other chemical corporations, are sprayed on food crops throughout the country and overseas. They are chemically similar to nicotine, according to chemists, and have been linked to the dramatic decline in honeybee and other insect populations.
“They’re a key facet in the global bee die-off,” said Marie Richey, the Cannon Beach resident who raised the issue with the City Council a couple of months ago. “These chemicals not only kill bees but other beneficial bugs, like lacewings, ladybugs and butterflies.”
The city does not currently use neonicotinoids anyway, Interim City Manager Jennie Messmer said. “It wasn’t something we were doing in practice.”
“We’re conscious of the environment here,” she continued. “It’s just how we do business.”
The restriction adopted by the council is not an outright ban. The city can still use neonicotinoids if “there are no other reasonable alternatives” and if not using them could pose a threat to public safety.
That said, the city hasn’t been able to envision a realistic scenario “that would compel us to use the chemical,” she said. The resolution leaves the city some wiggle room as a “safety measure ... just in case.”
Though Richey is pleased with the restriction, “in all honesty, I was hoping that they’d actually ban it,” she said.
The Eugene City Council passed a ban on city use of neonicotinoids last February, making it the first city in the nation to do so. (Spokane, Wash., banned city use of the chemical in July.)
Under Oregon law, the city of Cannon Beach cannot ban all use of the pesticide within city limits.
Tammy Herdener, the city attorney, pointed toward an Oregon Revised Statute — “State preemption of local pesticide regulation” — that prohibits local jurisdictions from regulating private citizens’ use of pesticides.
“The city can do whatever they want on their own property, we just cannot regulate what the public can do on their property,” she said. “The city can’t violate state law.”