The lawsuit was filed in response to the peoples’ affirmative vote to ban aerial spraying of pesticides in Lincoln County on May 16, 2017. The ballot measure, Measure 21-177, has been law in Lincoln County since early June, and no documented aerial spraying has occurred since then.
In their original complaint and associated briefs, plaintiffs Rex Capri of Newport and Wakefield Farms LLC of Eddyville claim that the county’s ban on aerial spraying of pesticides is overridden by state preemption laws. If that claim is upheld, it would mean that the authority of corporations to engage in aerial pesticide spraying for profit is held to be superior to the right of the people of Lincoln County to ban such spraying due to its documented harms to public health and the environment.
The most recent evidence of the toxic effect of pesticides came to light a month or so ago, when it finally became possible to release an extensive collection of documents, now referred to as the Poison Papers (www.poisonpapers.org). The documents had been stored for several decades by Lincoln County resident Carol Van Strum, a key figure in getting the government to stop aerial pesticide spraying on federal forests in Lincoln County back in the 1980’s.
The plaintiffs (who support continued spraying) claim additionally that the measure should never have been voted on in the first place, because the county lacked the authority to even pose the question of an aerial spray ban to the voters of Lincoln County. “Do we, as a community, have the right to determine to protect ourselves, our children, and our environment from a clear harm like the spraying of pesticides from aircraft into the atmosphere?” asks John Colman-Pinning, long-time Lincoln County resident and activist with intervenor-defendants Lincoln County Community Rights. “We wholeheartedly believe we do have that right and that is what the court must affirm as a legitimate right.”
In defending the authority of Lincoln County voters to enact the ban, Lincoln County Community Rights (LCCR) will be asserting the people’s right of local community self-government. LCCR will argue, that based on their inherent and inalienable right to self-govern, the people of Lincoln County have lawfully enacted local rights to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the County’s residents and environment more stringently than the state is willing to protect them. The voters’ approval of Measure 21-177 also protects the community’s rights to clean air and water. Additionally, LCCR argues that, even under the state’s laws, the ordinance is lawful because local laws are presumed to be valid except where the law conflicts with preemptive statutes. LCCR maintains that the laws can be read to coexist where they seek to achieve different purposes.
“This case gets to the heart of who and what our laws are meant to protect: the people or corporations? Community welfare or corporate profits? Lincoln County Community Rights is standing up to say that the law must recognize the right of the people, not corporations, to decide fundamental issues in the communities where they live.” says Ann Kneeland, attorney for LCCR.
The hearing on the parties’ motions for summary judgment will be heard at 11:00 am on Monday, October 9th, in front of Judge Sheryl Bachart, in Courtroom 300 of the Lincoln County Courthouse in Newport.