Change Coming in New Hampshire? Too Close to Call
We have been tracking and participating in Bill HB 1456 in New Hampshire for months now. All sorts of folks in the media, in e-mails, and even on the street are wondering how things are likely to turn out there. Regrettably, we were not able to attend the final committee hearing on the bill last Tuesday due to the surgery on my wrist. But we’ve been gathering information from some of the key players ever since.
Here is what we know:
HB 1456 is just a study bill. The legislative committee may recommend that nothing changes in New Hampshire. Chemical pesticide applicators may very well be able to apply poisons as usual when the dust all settles on this. Ample anecdotal evidence suggests that at least several of the counselors on the committee, all Republicans by the way, think there is nothing broken worth fixing here. Of course, the people who invited SafeLawns to participate think plenty is broken about the current system of regulating and applying pesticides used to kill dandelions, clover, plantain etc.
By most accounts, the activists in favor of restricting pesticides ended the month-long study period on a high note last week. Meg Sears from Ontario served as a star witness if you will, trotting out her PhD and impressive resume. Remarkably, she was actually allowed to speak for an extended period, which hasn’t always been the case during these hearings. With her background in chemical engineering, applied chemistry and biochemical engineering, along with her position at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, she was able to beat back the chemical lobbyists every time they refuted one of her claims.
Our friend Chip Osborne also made a provocative case for organic lawn care for the legislators. Chip was able to explain from personal experience that organic lawn care costs less for the towns over the long haul, even if it does cost a little bit more in the first year or two of the transition. Chip has been doing this for a dozen years in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He has all the budget numbers. The lawns look great. So he is another tough one to argue against.
The chemical players were all there again last week. Folks from Scott’s Miracle Gro, Bayer Crop Services and Karen Reardon from the Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment all rolled their eyes anytime anyone suggested that lawn chemicals were dangerous. The stress of it all was reportedly very evident on the face of New Hampshire’s largest lawn care poison specialist, Jim Campanella, of Lawn Dawg. Waiting to speak until the meeting was just about to adjourn, he launched into a diatribe. He claims to have 15,000 customers and to hear him talk, he’ll lose them all if he doesn’t get to keep using his poisons.
“He accused us of emotionality, of having no grip on reality, of presenting research that was not valid and not credible,” said one legislator who favors pesticide restriction. “It was as though he sat
there every week, taking notes and then let ‘er rip.”
Campanella’s mood could not have been improved by a letter written to the legislature by Tom Kelly, his former business partner. Kelly now sells organic products and freely admits that the chemicals he used to sell are poisonous. I haven’t yet seen the letter, but Kelly admitted to SafeLawns months ago that he was ashamed of his former professional life.
Rep. Suzanne Smith, the sponsor of HB 1456, was one of the last to speak. She told me she is optimistic that the legislators will recommend some pesticide restrictions, at least around schools.
“I brought up credible research for acute health problems from pesticides that was published in
JAMA and Academy of Pediatrics,” she said. “I then went on to say… “BUT, If we can grow good quality turf and NOT put children at risk from even the possibility of short or long term health issues, what is the argument not to do something? If lawn care professionals can keep earning a good living using a safer alternative (which would need definition in NH), why not support the chance to give our children a healthier future?”
We do not have any word yet on when the vote might come, but will stay on top of the story. One of New Hampshire’s leading newspapers, the Concord Monitor, is planning to run a story on the issue sometime this week. Known to be politically liberal, the paper is likely to come out in favor of protecting the environment and children.
But then, you would think everyone would, wouldn’t you?