Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Sheryl Bachart today did not render a decision on a challenge to last May’s voter initiative that has stopped aerial pesticide spraying in Lincoln County. Word has it that pesticides are still being applied by humans on the grounds with back-pack devices to administer the anti-undergrowth chemicals.
Timber companies attorney Gregory Chaimov contended that local voters don’t have the legal power to overturn state law and regulations which allow aerial spraying. But citizens attorney Anne Kneeland that the toxic chemicals in the spray contaminate local creeks and rivers as well as watersheds from which drinking water supplies are drawn for Depoe Bay, Newport and Yachats and other communities. Kneeland said public health laws that protect human lives should override any state regulation or statute to the contrary. Citizens contend that aerial spraying goes on despite adverse conditions like wind-drift and flying too close to homes and communities.
Those opposed to aerial pesticide spraying, who authored Measure 21-177, won by 61 votes, despite a very heavy advertising campaign by large corporate timber and farming companies. But the timber industry contends that state laws and regulations that allow aerial spraying are in charge – not local citizens and that health concerns are unjustified because spraying is conducted under very controlled conditions meant to minimize exposure to human inhabited areas.
The judge said she would review the testimony and other evidence before she makes her ruling. She indicated the ruling may come sometime around the first of the year.
Regardless of the ruling the losing side will most certainly appeal the ruling to the Oregon Court of Appeals in Salem. The losing side on that appeal could then appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court.
The local Lincoln County Community Rights group is one of many that has joined other advocacy groups nationwide to challenge what they call dire threats to human health and to the health of ecosystems throughout the country and in a number areas of the world. Some have even gone as far as to proclaim that the Earth itself is a living being that has rights of its own and that national and multi-national corporations are using natural resources in ways that pollute rivers, the air and the ground that people and animals rely on to live. The country of Ecuador recently enacted a law with similar provisions and is part of a movement that is gaining political traction here in the U.S.