Four Democratic senators have proposed what they are calling a “compromise” to reauthorize the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act through 2023, but its prospects are uncertain, at best.
Senators Tom Udall, D-N.M. (pictured above); Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., are circulating an amendment to the PRIA bill, which has cleared the House but has been stalled in the Senate by a hold placed on it by the senators.
They want EPA to keep its hands off two rules – the Worker Protection Standard and the Certification of Pesticide Applicators Rule – and respond to environmental groups' concerns about chlorpyrifos. EPA recently asked for comments on possible changes to the WPS and CPA rules, including minimum age requirements.
EPA also said it would look at the Designated Representative provision in the WPS rule, which allows workers to designate a person to obtain information from farmers on pesticides they were exposed to, and review the application exclusion zone provision, which "requires agricultural employers to keep workers and other persons out of certain areas around the pesticide application equipment (i.e., AEZs) during ongoing pesticide applications," as the agency said when asking for comments on possible changes.
"EPA's planned rollback of rules protecting children and farmworkers from poisonous pesticides is dangerous to the extreme," Blumenthal said. "We are offering EPA a common-sense compromise that will protect kids from exposure to chemicals like chlorpyrifos and ensure that adult agricultural workers have full access to information about toxic pesticides. In the absence of EPA leadership, Congress has an obligation to do better than allow toxic chemicals to continue poisoning children and workers."
But the initial reaction from a key industry trade group was not positive.
“Previous versions of PRIA were unanimously reauthorized because this agency funding bill was not encumbered by extraneous policy matters,” said Beau Greenwood, CropLife America’s executive vice president for government relations and public affairs.
“It is unfortunate that this time around, policy demands unrelated to PRIA have threatened to block critical funding that allows EPA to carry out its mission of protecting human health and the environment,” Greenwood said. “CropLife America supports the reauthorization of PRIA and remains committed to ensuring that the EPA is sufficiently funded.”
PRIA establishes fees and timetables for registrations and other actions taken by EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, which gets about one-third of its funding from the mandated fees.
The amendment would specifically prohibit EPA from making any changes to either the WPS or CPA rules, and would require EPA to respond to objections by environmental groups to the agency’s decision last year to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos (Lorsban).
The amendment would give EPA 50 days to issue a final decision on objections filed by environmental groups and several attorneys general to its March 29, 2017, order denying a Pesticide Action Network/Natural Resources Defense Council petition to revoke all tolerances and cancel all registrations for chlorpyrifos.
Jim Aidala, a former assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances and a senior government consultant at Bergeson & Campbell, said he could understand the demand for an answer on chlorpyrifos, but that preventing EPA from making any changes to its regulations is problematic.
“It’s kind of weird to freeze a rule,” Aidala said. He noted that the way the amendment is written, it would prevent any changes to the rules, even those that might be sought by advocates for farmworkers.
EPA did not have anything to say about the proposal. “EPA declines comment,” an agency spokesperson said in an email.