Wednesday, November 02, 2011

EPA moving forward with new permit process for pesticides after foes fail to get help in Senate

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with plans to require new permits for application of agricultural pesticides near water, after opponents of the plan failed to win Senate approval of a two-year moratorium or repeal of the regulation that many call "costly and duplicative," reports Agri-Pulse, a Washington-based newsletter.

Pesticide use is already regulated by federal law and the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, but the new permitting rules come after the 2009 6th Circuit Court of Appeal ruling in National Cotton Council vs. EPA that pesticide discharge is "a point source of pollution subject to additional regulation under the Clean Water Act, necessitating NPDES permits for each application near water bodies." EPA estimates that the ruling and its resulting plan will affect about 365,000 pesticide users each year.

Agri-Pulse reports that crop-protection trade group CropLife America says a general permitting process for pesticide applicators has long been used by the EPA under the Clean Water Act, but "Congress never intended non-point sources of contaminants to be similarly regulated, and exempted agricultural storm water runoff and irrigation return flows from the CWA’s permitting program." The House and the Senate agriculture committees approved bills clarify that, but the legislation stalled in the full Senate because of multiple holds by individual members and supporters' failure to attach it to other legislation.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., told Agri-Pulse, "Because pesticide applications are already regulated, this new requirement won’t provide any additional environmental benefits. All it will do is impose substantial new costs that slows down economic activity and hurts job growth at a time when we can ill afford to do so.” EPA announced that pesticide applicators covered under general permits won't have to submit a notice of intent for any discharges before Jan. 12, 2012. CropLife president Jay Vroom told Agri-Pulse that pesticide users remain vulnerable to lawsuits by citizens.

Agri-Pulse is subscription-only, but offers four-week free trials on its website.

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