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Take Action: Senators Work with Industry on Yet Another Bill to Strip Water Protections

(Beyond Pesticides, May 1, 2013) Last week, U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, (D-NC), and Larry Wooten, president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau, announced new legislation that will be introduced to eliminate Clean Water Act permits required for certain applications of pesticides on or near waterways. The bill to be introduced by Sens. Hagan and Mike Crapo (R-ID) is called “The Sensible Environmental Protection Act (SEPA).” This is the latest in a string of attacks lobbied by industry to remove Clean Water Act protections for streams receiving pesticide discharges. Mother and son fishing

Take Action: Urge your Senators Not to Support This Bill

The bill, The Sensible Environmental Protection Act (S-EPA), announced last Monday by Senators Hagan and Crapo is said to be a bipartisan effort to remove so-called “redundant, unnecessary and costly regulation” on farmers and local governments.  According to Senator Hagan, the Clean Water Act does not provide any additional health benefits. S-EPA, not to be confused with the School Environment Protection Act (a real effort to protect children from pesticides), will clarify that Clean Water Act permits are not required for pesticide applications in or near water. The bill also asks the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to report back to Congress on whether the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which regulates pesticides, can be improved to better protect human health and the environment from pesticide applications.

Under the Clean Water Act, in order to discharge applied pesticides in or adjacent to the waters of the U.S., one must have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which follows a 2009 federal appeals court ruling in National Cotton Council v. EPA. The ruling found that EPA’s pesticide regulations were not sufficient to protect the nation’s waterways from pesticide contamination and ordered the agency to develop new permits. Sen. Hagan and her colleagues cite the NPDES permits as being too burdensome on farmers as they spend too many resources filling out paperwork to acquire the permit and monitor their pesticide discharges, which is all they are required to do. The Senators also believe that the permits are unneeded regulations that only stifle an already struggling economy, even though fees can be as low as $25 for the permit, and states that oversee the permitting program stand to collect this revenue. Read Clearing up the Confusion Surrounding the New NPDES General Permit.

However, the potentially high cost of public health problems, environmental clean-up efforts, and irreversible ecological damage that can result from unchecked, indiscriminate pollution of waterways is not being considered by Congress. The reality is that this permitting process encourages pesticide users to seek alternative approaches to pest management if their current methods are going to contaminate nearby sources of water. And, given the vast knowledge that we have on organic, integrated pest management (IPM) and non-chemical solutions, this bill will be a disastrous step backwards. Additionally, according to the National Water Resources Association (NWRA) EPA has not reported difficulties with the new permit program.

S-EPA is supported by 150 farming and forestry groups and state regulators from across the country, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, Agriculture Retailers Association, National Cotton Council, National Alliance of Forest Owners, United Fresh Produce Association and the National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultants.

S-EPA of 2013 is cosponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators, including: Carper (D-DE), Coons (D-DE), Risch (R-ID), Heitkamp (D-ND), Vitter (R-LA), McCaskill (D-MO), Inhofe (R-OK), and Donnelly (D-IN).

Industry lobby groups, like those mentioned above, have been very busy around the country persuading state and federal elected officials to support legislation that weakens the authority  of the Clean Water Act. Since the inaction of the NPDES permit requirement in 2011, several pieces of legislation have been introduced In Congress to strip the Clean Water Act of jurisdiction of direct pesticide discharge into waterways, as well as other legislation to impact EPA and other federal agencies tasked with environmental oversight. Additionally, the White House Council on Environmental Quality estimates that the recent sequester could reduce federal funding for state environmental programs by $154 million, which could dramatically affect the safety of U.S. waterways.

Waterways in the U.S. are increasingly imperiled from various agents, including agricultural and industrial discharges, nutrient loading (nitrogen and phosphorus), and biological agents such as pathogens. Pesticides discharged into our nation’s rivers, lakes and streams can harm or kill fish and amphibians. These toxicants have the potential to accumulate in the fish we eat and the water we drink.

To keep up to date on Congressional and government agency actions, sign-up for Beyond Pesticides’ action alerts and visit our Threatened Waters page.

Take Action: Urge your Senators Not to Support This Bill

Source: Office of Sen. Hagan

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.


2 Responses to “Take Action: Senators Work with Industry on Yet Another Bill to Strip Water Protections”

  1. 1
    Barbara Jones Says:

    Who will all these industrial farmers sell their products to when communities are sickened and destroyed by polluted, contaminated water?

  2. 2
    Matt Woolery Says:

    Water is a civil right. How can you have “life. liberty and the pufuit of happineff” without it?!?

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