Environment Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-754

Title:

AN ACT PROHIBITING THE USE OF HERBICIDES ON STATE HIGHWAYS BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.

Vote Date:

2/22/2017

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

2/3/2017

File No.:

32

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Environment Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

To prohibit the spraying of herbicides along the state's highways. Herbicides are used to treat unwanted vegetation along highway guiderails, barriers, and signs. There are concerns that toxic chemicals used in herbicides may contaminate soil and water resources in the immediate or adjacent areas to where herbicides are applied.

This bill will prohibit the Department of Transportation from using herbicides along all highways and roadways of the state.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

James Redeker, Commissioner, State of Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT): Provided comment on the bill. CTDOT uses herbicides to safely and efficiently control vegetation on and under guiderails, signs, and barriers to insure visibility of the rail and to maintain sightlines on curves and intersections. Additionally, herbicides are also used to reduce fire hazards, maintain drainage, control invasive plants and preclude the growth of woody vegetation. Manually removing this vegetation is labor intensive with high potential for injury. Herbicides used have no soil movement or leaching properties, and venders must meet strict CTDOT and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) standards and specifications. The CTDOT herbicide program is incorporated into an Integrated Pest Management Plan which is reviewed and approved by DEEP and targets specifically vegetation on and under guiderail systems, regrowth from previous cutting, and invasive species.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Louis W. Burch, Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE): Prohibiting the use of toxic herbicides on State highways will protect Connecticut's soil and water resources, protect public health and food security, and the health of important pollinators. Although initially effective, weeds and other unwanted plants will develop chemical resistance over time. Glyphosate, the most common herbicide on today's market, is known to permeate through soils and easily runs off into storm drains and catch basins. As Connecticut moves towards efforts to establish pollinator-friendly habitats, such as highway medians, it is essential that the state reduce unnecessary uses of harmful herbicides in areas where they may not be needed.

William Cooke, Legislative Coordinator, Grassroots Environmental Education: There is clear scientific evidence linking adverse health outcomes with exposure to pesticides; such as, increased risk to certain types of cancer, developmental issues, birth defects and the exacerbation of asthma symptoms.

Elizabeth Gara, Executive Director, Connecticut Water Works Association (CWWA): CWWA does not have a position on prohibiting the use of herbicides on state highways; however, the organization has concerns with the use of herbicides along state highways adjacent to public drinking water supply reservoirs. CWWA recommends the bill be amended to prohibit the use of herbicides within 100 feet of the high water mark of public drinking water supply reservoirs.

Margaret Miner, Executive Director, Rivers Alliance of Connecticut: The Rivers Alliance of Connecticut have long sought to limit the use of pesticides and herbicides. Chemicals sprayed on land eventually enter water. Highway spray areas are frequently adjacent to steep slopes, wetlands, and streams.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

Riley Titus, Manager of State Public Affairs, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment: This bill will compromise CTDOT's ability to maintain state highways safely, effectively, and in a fiscally responsible manner. Herbicides are an essential part of integrated vegetation management practices, used for managing the 100 invasive plants in the state, hazardous vegetation around guardrail systems, and regrowth from previous cutting and clearing activities. Maintaining vegetation through cutting would raise labor costs, are hazardous activities, displace or kill wildlife, cause erosion and sedimentation of waterways, spread non-native invasive weed problems, and increase risk to wildfire.

Peter Vujovich, Manager of State Affairs, Consumer Specialty Products Association: Prohibiting the use of herbicides would severely inhibit Connecticut's ability to combat the spread of invasive plants. The University of New Hampshire, in their report Managing Invasive Pests: Methods of Control, lists herbicides as the “most effective and resource-efficient tools to treat invasive species.” Additionally, mechanical methods of managing invasive plants are more costly.

Reported by: Robin Bumpen

Date: 2/28/17