WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2013 - Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., today re-introduced legislation (S. 175) to eliminate a “burdensome, costly and redundant” Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permit requirement for applications of pesticides.

The bill aims to ensure Clean Water Act permits are not needed for the applications of pesticides

“This double layer of red tape is costly to the agriculture industry and consumers,” Roberts said. “It also takes aim at public health departments by requiring permits on top of existing permits for pesticide use.”

At issue is the January 2009 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in National Cotton Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which required pesticide applications to be permitted under the Clean Water Act. This National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit is needed in addition to any label requirements or restrictions previously placed on the use of a pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

The NPDES permit is of particular concern for public health officials who say they are restricted in their ability to control mosquitoes, and the spread of diseases such as the West Nile virus. It is also a significant issue for agriculture.

Since early 2012, the EPA has enforced a permanent rule, in response to the court ruling, requiring approximately 35,000 pesticide applicators to get permits to cover about 500,000 applications per year. EPA estimates determined the permit rule will cost states, local entities, and pesticide applicators $50 million and require one million hours to implement per year. Under the Clean Water Act, unlawful discharges are subject to $37,500 per day in fines.  

The senators’ legislation would amend FIFRA by stating that no permit shall be required for the use of a pesticide that is registered under FIFRA.

Roberts said the NPDES permit “creates confusion and the potential for significant penalties.”

Johanns said, “Not only is EPA pursuing regulations that are economically crippling, they are also pursuing regulations that are clearly duplicative.”

The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee approved identical legislation from Roberts last June by voice vote. However, it was blocked from reaching the Senate floor.

The House approved similar legislation last March with a 292-130 vote.

This year’s Senate bill has the following original co-sponsors: Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., John Thune, R-S.D., Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, David Vitter, R-La., Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., James Inhofe, R-Okla., and John Boozman, R-Ark.

The National Cotton Council (NCC) has previously offered its support for the legislative language. In a June 2012 letter to Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., NCC president and chief executive officer Mark Lange wrote, “Pesticides must undergo a minimum of 125 safety tests - including impacts to aquatic environments - before they receive a registration for use. Permitting under the [Clean Water Act] is duplicative regulation which will burden applicators with high costs and liability without providing additional environmental protection.”

Updated 11:35 a.m., Jan. 31, 2013.


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