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Senate Bill Tackles EPA's Pesticide Regulations

Bill ensures Clean Water Act permits aren't needed for application of pesticides already covered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act

Published on: Jan 31, 2013

U.S. Sens. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Pat Roberts, R-Kan., on Wednesday introduced legislation to eliminate an Environmental Protection Agency permit requirement for applications of pesticides that they call "burdensome and costly."

The bill, S. 175, will ensure that Clean Water Act permits are not needed for the applications of pesticides currently registered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Roberts introduced the same legislation in the last Congress where it was blocked from consideration on the Senate floor.

Also in the 112th Congress, the House and the Senate Agriculture Committee passed similar legislation, H.R. 872, with strong bipartisan support.

Roberts-Johanns bill ensures Clean Water Act permits arent needed for application of pesticides already covered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act
Roberts-Johanns bill ensures Clean Water Act permits aren't needed for application of pesticides already covered under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act

The issue originates from a January 2009 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals opinion in National Cotton Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that requires pesticide applications to be permitted under the Clean Water Act. This National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit is now in addition to any label requirements or restrictions already placed on the use of a pesticide under the FIFRA.

Since early 2012, the EPA has enforced a now 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.

Additionally, the requirement is of particular concern for public health officials who are now restricted in their ability to control mosquitoes, and the spread of diseases like the West Nile virus, the Senators said. It is also a significant issue for agriculture.

"Not only is EPA pursuing regulations that are economically crippling, they are also pursuing regulations that are clearly duplicative," Johanns said. "The agenda being pushed by this Administration's EPA amounts to more red tape, more roadblocks and more needless headaches."

Sen. Pat Roberts also noted that the permit requirements could create confusion.

"This double layer of red tape is costly to the agriculture industry and consumers. It also takes aim at public health departments by requiring permits on top of existing permits for pesticide use," Sen. Roberts said. "This creates confusion and the potential for significant penalties. Our bill eliminates this redundant permit requirement while at the same time ensuring proper pesticide use through existing law."

American Soybean Association President Danny Murphy issued a statement of support for the bill Thursday.

"This legislation will remove the uncertainty that the current system creates, while leaving well-established rules in place to effectively protect the environment," Murphy said. He called on the Senate to pass the bill quickly.

Roberts introduced the same legislation in the last Congress where it was blocked from consideration on the Senate floor. Also in the 112th Congress, the House and the Senate Agriculture Committee passed similar legislation, H.R. 872, with strong bipartisan support.

The bill has the following original cosponsors: Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., John Thune, R-S.D., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, David Vitter, R-La., Michael Enzi, R-Wyo., James Inhofe, R-Okla. and John Boozman, R-Ark.