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Connolly Issues Response to Senate Decision to Block Pesticide Restriction Bill

AB 99 would have required Caltrans to respect local decisions banning the roadside spraying of deadly pesticides

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA – Today, Assemblymember Damon Connolly issued a statement in response to the decision of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s to block the passage of Assembly Bill (AB) 99, a vital bill that would have protected public health and local ecosystems by restricting the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and their widespread program of spraying harmful pesticides alongside highways in counties that adopted official resolutions restricting the deployment of such chemicals. AB 99 was referred to the Senate’s Appropriations Committee, where it was made a “two-year-bill,” a stalling tactic that blocks its passage until the next legislative session, despite the bill garnering strong support in both houses and already passing through five committees and the Assembly Floor. There was no explanation from the Committee regarding this decision.

“It is extremely concerning that the Senate Appropriations Committee has blocked AB 99, allowing the continuation of widespread pesticide spraying along our highways and local communities by Caltrans, even in communities where the use of such harmful products have been curtailed,” said Assemblymember Connolly. “While Democrats maintain a supermajority in both the Assembly and the Senate, it is clear that the elected officials who decide which bills are allowed to pass through the legislature are bowing to the special interests and bureaucracies who want to continue to use potentially harmful products because they are cheap and easy, regardless of the harm these actions may have on public health or the environment in local communities. This fight is not over and I commit to bringing this bill up again next year and passing it through the Senate.”

Pesticides can contaminate soil, water, turf, and other vegetation due to pesticide drift, secondary poisoning, runoff into local water bodies, or groundwater contamination. Synthetic herbicides and pesticides are known to cause developmental harm to humans, are not readily biodegradable, and contaminate groundwater. Whether through direct or indirect contact, pesticide exposure is linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive effects, neurotoxicity, kidney and liver damage, birth defects, and developmental changes in a wide range of species. According to a study conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, More than 80 percent of U.S. children and adults likely have the chemical glyphosate in their bodies. Presently, RoundUp is the primary tool used by Caltrans for killing brush along California State Highways. 

Even though Marin and Sonoma County have passed ordinances restricting the use of certain herbicides like glyphosate, Caltrans is exempt from many local rules and is allowed to spray pesticides with far less oversight and environmental precautions than those required by many North Bay jurisdictions. For example, the Sonoma County Transportation and Public Works (TPW) did not utilize any pesticides in West County and used only 8 gallons of herbicides to manage all County roads in 2021. In contrast, Caltrans used over 745 gallons of herbicides on Sonoma County’s State Highways during that year. AB 99 would have restricted the use of pesticides by Caltrans in counties that adopt measures banning or restricting such chemicals.

AB 99 will be eligible to be taken up again next year.