EPA’s proposed new pesticide permit rules come under immediate fire

By Agri-Pulse Staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, June 2 – Draft EPA rules announced Wednesday to “decrease the amount of pesticides discharged to our nation’s waters and protect human health and the environment” sparked instant criticism.

Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) charged that “By refusing to defend current law and its own reasonable regulations, EPA is unfortunately planning to place unnecessary, burdensome and duplicative permit requirements on producers, mosquito control districts and states. More regulation is not the key to economic recovery, especially when the regulation does absolutely nothing to further protect or enhance the environment.”

Explaining the need for the new rules, EPA pointed out that “This action is in response to an April 9, 2009 court decision that found that pesticide discharges to U.S. waters were pollutants, thus requiring a permit.” EPA explained that “The proposed permit, released for public comment and developed in collaboration with states, would require all operators to reduce pesticide discharges by using the lowest effective amount of pesticide, prevent leaks and spills, calibrate equipment and monitor for and report adverse incidents. Additional controls, such as integrated pest management practices, are built into the permit for operators who exceed an annual treatment area threshold.”

Peter Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water said that “EPA believes this draft permit strikes a balance between using pesticides to control pests and protecting human health and water quality.”

According to EPA estimates, the new Pesticide General Permit rules, if finalized, would affect approximately 35,000 pesticide applicators nationally performing about half a million pesticide applications annually in the areas which EPA deals with directly. Including the other 44 states where the states serve as the NPDES permitting authority rather than EPA, then the proposed new rules would “affect approximately 365,000 pesticide applicators nationwide that perform 5.6 million pesticide applications annually.”

The agency’s draft permit covers the following pesticide uses:  (1) mosquito and other flying insect pest control; (2) aquatic weed and algae control; (3) aquatic nuisance animal control; and (4) forest canopy pest control. It does not cover terrestrial applications to control pests on agricultural crops or forest floors. EPA is soliciting public comment on whether additional use patterns should be covered by this general permit.

The agency plans to finalize the permit in December 2010 to take effect April 9, 2011. Once finalized, the EPA Pesticide General Permit will be used in states, territories, tribal lands, and federal facilities where EPA is the authorized permitting authority. In the remaining 44 states, states will issue the pesticide general permits. EPA has been working closely with these states to develop their permits concurrently.

EPA will hold three public meetings, a public hearing and a webcast on the draft General Permit to present the proposed requirements of the permit, the basis for those requirements and to answer questions. EPA will accept written comments on the draft permit for 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.

In response to the EPA announcement, American Farm Bureau Federation Congressional Relations Director Tyler Wegmeyer told Agri-Pulse that “Requirements to get Clean Water Act Permits for applying pesticides has never happened before and EPA is expecting farmers during their busiest time of year to look at this extensive document and comment within such a short time. It is not reasonable.”

CropLife America President Jay Vroom told Agri-Pulse that the initial EPA proposal appears to be “targeted to a fairly narrow set of pesticide uses,” but could lead to future “interpretations for broader reach of the permitting process.” He said that what’s important now is that “everyone in ag needs to be on point and ready to provide comment in order to do all we can to keep EPA focused on as narrow an approach as possible.”

For more EPA information on the “Draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Pesticide General Permit for Point Source Discharges from the Application of Pesticides,” go to: www.epa.gov/npdes

For information on submitting comments or attending the EPA meetings on the pesticides proposal, go to:  www.agri-pulse.com/20100602H2_EPA_Meetings.asp

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