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April 1st, 2004

Community Focus: No Spray Update

by Mitchel Cohen

Victory in the fight against toxic pesticide spraying.

In a case termed “absolutely crucial” by environmental organizations, the Court of Appeals’ Second Circuit in New York City upheld claims by anti-pesticide activists and reversed a lower court decision that had dismissed a lawsuit against the city of New York for massive and indiscriminate spraying toxic pesticides to kill mosquitoes. The suit had been brought 3-1/2 years ago by the No Spray Coalition and others, under a number of statutes, including the Clean Water Act. Subsequent court decisions had narrowed the lawsuit to the Clean Water Act, only. Earlier this year, District Court Judge John Martin had rejected even that attempt, ruling that the Clean Water Act was not designed to stop pesticide spraying, since pesticides are covered by other laws that do not allow for citizen lawsuits. But on Tuesday, December 9, a three-judge Appeals Court panel overturned the lower court’s ruling, stating that the Clean Water Act clearly “authorizes ?ɬany citizen’ to bring suit to enforce its requirements, regardless of whether the alleged violation of CWA also constitutes a substantial violation” of other laws.

“We therefore vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings,” the judges wrote.

Mitchel Cohen, an individual plaintiff in the case and a coordinator of the No Spray Coalition, was ecstatic over the ruling: “Yes Virginia, there is a Sanity Clause,” Cohen said.?Ǭ Cohen went on to say: “On every front, the health and safety of people and the preservation of the environment are being devastated by the enormous tonnage of pesticides dumped, engineered, and sprayed on us. Thousands of people have been made seriously ill by the indiscriminate spraying of malathion and pyrethroids in New York City and around the country, ostensibly to kill mosquitoes said to be carrying West Nile virus. This ?ɬcure’ is far worse than the disease, considering the huge numbers of people being poisoned by the spraying.

“The Environmental Protection Agency simply lied about the pesticides’ dangers, just as they lied about the extremely toxic plumes of chemicals emanating from the World Trade Center following 9-11. To this day, the cover-up continues. Our lawsuit is aimed to put an end to the government’s reckless disregard for the health and safety of people and the environment.”

The lawyers for the Coalition-Karl Coplan of the Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic, and Joel Kupferman of the New York Environmental Law and Justice Project-were also pleased by the decision: “The Second Circuit reasserted the right of the average person to sue in the Courts under the Clean Water Act,” Coplan said. “This is a terribly important ruling; it stops a bad situation from being made even worse.”

The Plaintiffs in the case are the No Spray Coalition, National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, Disabled In Action, Save Organic Standards New York, Valerie Sheppard, Mitchel Cohen, Robert Lederman, and Eva Yaa Asantewaa. The Anti-Pesticide lawsuit is now remanded back to the lower court where it will most likely be heard in time for this year’s round of spraying. The No Spray Coalition now must raise tens of thousands of dollars to fund the looming Court case.

Whatever you can contribute is desperately needed and gratefully accepted.

Mitchel Cohen

To Contribute to the No Spray Coalition:
Please make out checks/money orders to No Spray Coalition and mail to:
PO Box 334, Peck Slip Station, NYC 10272-0334.
You can also contribute by credit card by going to the website at
Hotline: (718) 670-7110


For More Info:
Save Organic Standards:
National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides:

Disabled In Action
Pace Environmental Litigation Clinic:
New York Environmental Law and Justice Project:

Filed Under: Articles | New York | Politics





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