Council votes to create panel to examine pesticide use

  • FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2003 file photo, a bumblebee sits atop a gray-headed coneflower in Dauphin, Pa. Carolyn Kaster

Staff Writer
Published: 3/17/2019 7:44:41 PM

NORTHAMPTON — At its March 7 meeting, the City Council voted to create a select committee on reducing the use of pesticides in the city.

“I’m thrilled. I think it’s long overdue in Northampton,” said Ward 7 City Councilor Alisa Klein, in comments to the Gazette.

The vote to create the committee passed unanimously on first reading, although the City Council will have to pass it on second reading in order for it come into being.

The resolution contains a number of concerns with the effects of pesticides, including human exposure being linked to health problems and the use of pesticides being associated with the decline of pollinators and birds.

Klein, a resolution co-sponsor, shared additional concerns at the committee as well, including connecting pesticide use with climate change.

“Pesticides are actually part of the fossil fuel industry that’s contributing so heavily to climate change,” Klein said at the meeting.

Should the resolution pass its second reading, City Council President Ryan O’Donnell will have until April 12 to appoint two councilors and six individuals with expertise in fields such as agriculture, forestry and public health to the select committee.

The committee’s charge would include examining alternatives to pesticide use, the city’s current management of green spaces, the estimated costs of pesticide reduction projects and policies in other jurisdictions.

The committee would begin meeting on April 26 and would submit a report to the council with “practical and legislative recommendations to reduce pesticide use” by Oct. 15.

“We’re not looking for immediate answers by any means,” Klein told the Gazette. “Essentially, they’re just doing a study.”

Klein also said she would like to serve on the committee. And she noted that the city has no authority over how pesticides are used on private lands, although it can regulate how pesticides are used in municipal areas.

Nash, the resolution’s other co-sponsor, said at the meeting that he believed his colleagues thought that “this was an important discussion to have.”

And he said that the creation of a select committee was the best way to proceed.

“We wanted to be sure we were understanding everything,” Klein told the Gazette, on the decision to create a select committee.

City Councilor At-Large William Dwight noted that pesticide reduction has been an issue of concern for Klein since she joined the council.

“This has been one of the critical issues that she’s been focusing on,” Dwight said.

“Thank you both for the extensive work you have done on this,” said Ward 4 City Councilor Gina Louise-Sciarra.

Klein and Nash also said that there have been extensive conversations with the mayor and relevant city employees on the issue.

O’Donnell said this would be the first time the council has formed a select committee, something he noted he suggested be added to the council rules four years ago.

“Thank you to both councilors for conducting the first experiment,” said O’Donnell.

Klein told the Gazette that she’s gotten a lot of emails around the issue, “more than anything else I think that we’ve worked on,” with the caveat that the downtown surveillance cameras may have generated more input.

She also said that all correspondence she has received has been supportive of the pesticide reduction.

Also at the meeting, a resolution in support of changing Massachusetts’ state flag and seal passed on second reading, as did a resolution supporting the mayor’s five-year capital improvement program, which contains a project to fund exploring municipal broadband in the city.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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