Roberts, Johanns fighting EPA permit layers

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Mike Johanns, R-Neb., have introduced legislation to eliminate what they say is a “burdensome, costly and redundant” Environmental Protection Agency, EPA permit requirement for applications of pesticides.

“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,” said Roberts.

The U.S. senators called the EPA’s regulations “economically crippling” and say they duplicate existing regs.

Clean Water Act

At issue is the 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, NPDES permit is now in addition to any label requirements or restrictions already placed on the use of a pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, FIFRA.

Since early in 2012, the EPA has enforced a now permanent rule in response to the Sixth Circuit Court ruling, requiring approximately 35,000 pesticide applicators to get permits to cover about 500,000 applications per year.

Roberts and Johanns cite the EPA’s own estimates that determined the permit rule will cost states, local entities and pesticide applicators $50 million and require 1 million hours to implement per year.

Under the Clean Water Act, unlawful discharges are subject to $37,500 per day in fines.

Public health concern?

This 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.

Roberts and Johanns’ bill, S. 175, ensures Clean Water Act permits are not needed for the applications of pesticides and amends FIFRA by stating that no permit shall be required for the use of a pesticide that is registered under FIFRA.

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.

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