FRESNO, CA --October 21 -- Lawsuits to force agricultural companies to follow public health and safety rules while spraying toxic chemicals in communities could not go forward if Prop 64 were law, said public health, consumer and community advocates in downtown Fresno today. The public also could not enforce a law passed this year requiring companies to pay for medical care when pesticide drift has caused emergency medical situations, if 64 were to pass, said the advocates. Fresno was the 4th stop on their 15-city "Public Health Tour."
A 15-foot-tall inflatable cigarette box with a "Public Health Warning: No On 64" is the backdrop as the grassroots Public Health Tour continues through 10 California cities in the weeks before the election. Among the largest donors to Proposition 64 are Phillip Morris, ExxonMobil and the auto industry. The tour will draw attention to the dangers of Prop 64 and an e-activist flash animation website -- http://www.NoOnProp64.com -- that animates the public interest cases Prop 64 would stop and that millions of people are expected to see before the election. The American Lung Association, California Nurses Association, California Public Health Association-North and Health Access are among the public health groups opposing Proposition 64.
"Prop 64 would stop San Joaquin Valley residents from holding companies accountable for spraying toxic chemicals in communities and recklessly endangering public health and safety. That's why we're in Fresno on the 'Public Health Tour' today -- to show voters the truth behind deceptive TV ads funded by 64's big business sponsors. On the Tour, and with an 'e-activist' grassroots campaign, we'll make sure the public knows how Prop 64 would devastate public health and safety," said Carmen Balber with Election Watchdog. See the e-activism ad at http://www.NoOnProp64.com
A legal aid group brought suit against Western Farm Service under the Unfair Business Competition law, that Prop 64 would gut, to force farmers and contractors to follow health and safety rules that protect the public from the negative health effects of pesticides. The case challenges a poisoning incident caused by pesticide drift in which victims, including children, pregnant women and the elderly, complained of vision problems, vomiting, burning of the skin and other reactions after pesticides were sprayed without necessary precautions near a schoolyard and residential areas. Western Farm Service faces another suit brought under the Unfair Business Competition law for injuries related to a July 2002 pesticide drift incident. Prop 64 would have stopped the suit and similar public health and pesticide protection cases.
"While you are likely to be bombarded by the supporters' TV ads between now and November, don't expect to learn anything from them about how effective the state's unfair competition law has been to protecting the environment from polluters and the public from pesticide-related health dangers. They are hoping you will never hear about how citizen and community groups have successfully used the law to protect the public health and environment in actions against big oil and energy companies, HMOs, big tobacco and large corporate polluters. In fact, the only thing you are likely to hear from the proponents is that they don't like trial lawyers who abuse the law. Unfortunately, even on this count the measure falls short because the provisions of the initiative would do little, if anything, to curb the practices of abusive lawyers," said Michael Schmitz, on behalf of CLEEN, the California League for Environmental Enforcement Now.
Residents could not enforce a law signed by Gov Schwarzenegger this year, SB 391 (Florez), which requires companies responsible for harm caused by pesticide drift to pay for emergency medical care. If Proposition 64 were law, individuals could not enforce this law to cover their medical costs if CalEPA or other state agencies did not act first.
Pesticide protection suits would not be possible if Proposition 64 were law because the measure would require anyone (except a government prosecutor) to have lost money or property and meet class action requirements in order to bring suit using the Unfair Business Competition law. The change would eliminate the vast majority of environmental and public health cases that typically involve harm to our water, air or health, but do not necessarily result in a direct loss of money or property.
Read more about environmental and public health protections threatened by Prop 64: http://www.electionwatchdog.org/fs/fs000082.php
Election Watchdog is a political action committee sponsored by Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit public benefit corporation organized in California. Election Watchdog was organized to protect consumers' interests in the ballot initiative process and does not take positions on candidate elections. Consumer Watchdog is the advocacy and campaign affiliate of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).
Learn more at http://www.ElectionWatchdog.org