Fernandes goes to bat for local control of pesticides

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State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, shown here at a meeting with the Martha's Vineyard Commission, testified in support of his bill that would give local towns control over pesticide use. — Gabrielle Mannino

State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth, who represents the Island in the House of Representatives, testified on a bill he filed to regulate pesticides and give local towns a say in what’s used.

Fernandes’ bill, H.776, is before the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture, and was part of a hearing that included several other pesticide-related bills, Fernandes said. His is the most far-reaching, putting control in the hands of local communities, something Island towns have said they want in their ongoing battles with Eversource over the use of glyphosate to clear utility rights of way.

“Essentially, if Tisbury wants to stop Eversource from using glyphosate in the town, they can take a vote of town meeting to do it, and then the board of health would have to approve it,” Fernandes said. 

His bill, which has gained some traction with 55 co-sponsors, requires a fundamental and philosophical change. “I do believe our local communities should be able to control chemicals and toxins used in their local communities,” he said. “Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and the Cape have sole-source aquifers to be protected, and local citizens should be allowed to control what pesticides are used.”

Fernandes is optimistic there will be some movement on a pesticide-related bill, if not his. The meeting room was packed with supporters, which is always a good sign, he said. The committee has until sometime in February to report out on the bill.

“I’m hopeful it gets in, and we’re doing a lot of advocacy on it,” Fernandes said. “The additional benefit of filing is just moving the needle on it and other pesticide bills.”