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25
May

Senate Considers Eliminating CWA Protections from Pesticides, Act Now

(Beyond Pesticides, May 25, 2011) Legislation, already passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, that would allow pesticides to be sprayed into water without a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit, is now being weighed by the U.S. Senate (S. 718). The Western Farm Press recently reported that Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is holding up the bill while she discusses it with EPA and USDA. But, the bill is expected to move quickly and the time to act is now. Beyond Pesticides encourages individuals and organizations tell their Senators that regulating pesticides under the CWA is necessary to protect our waterways, public health, fish, and wildlife, and therefore, they must oppose S. 718.

Michigan residents: Please call Senator Stabenow, thank her for delaying the legislation and ask her to oppose S. 718. Please call both your district office and Washington, DC.

Upper Peninsula Office: (906) 228-8756
Northern Michigan Office: (231) 929-1031
Flint/Saginaw Bay Office: (810) 720-4172
Southeast Michigan Office: (313) 961-4330
Mid-Michigan Office: (517) 203-1760
Western Michigan Office: (616) 975-0052
Washington, DC Office: (202) 224-4822

All other U.S. residents: Please call your U.S. Senators and tell them to oppose S. 718. If you know your Senators names, contact the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate office you request. You can find your Senators here. You may also automatically email your Senators using Beyond Pesticides’ Action Alert. You are encouraged to modify the sample letter for greater impact.

S. 718 – the so-called “Bill to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to improve the use of certain registered pesticides,” would eliminate CWA permits, or permits mandated by any other environmental law, that are required for the application of pesticides. The bill amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by stating, “Notwithstanding any other law, no permit shall be required for the use of a pesticide that is registered or otherwise authorized for use under this Act.” This bill would mean that pesticide applicators will be able to discharge pesticides into U.S. waterways without any government oversight. While the main aim of the law is the CWA, it could also prevent the regulation of pesticides under the Clean Air Act, which has been used to regulate ozone-depleting pesticides.

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), the ranking Republican member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced the bill in April. So far, it has only attracted Republican co-sponsors.

FIFRA and CWA are complementary laws. The two statutes have fundamentally different standards and methods in determining whether a pesticide will have unreasonable adverse effects on the environment and/or human health. The CWA statute is more stringent than FIFRA. CWA has a “zero discharge” standard, meaning any amount of discharge, no matter how small, without a permit, constitutes a violation of the CWA. FIFRA’s risk/benefit standard allows a certain amount of pollution in exchange for controversial calculations of benefit and use a threshold of harm that can vary upon EPA discretion. Since the CWA statute is more stringent in its oversight of U.S. waterways, FIFRA should not be allowed to override the CWA.

In March, HR 872 passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 292-130. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), seeks to amended FIFRA and CWA to eliminate provisions requiring pesticide applicators to obtain a permit to allow pesticides or their residues to enter waterways. It would reverse a 2009 Sixth Circuit court decision which ruled that, under FIFRA and CWA, EPA must require such permits.

The January 2009 Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in National Cotton Council v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, requires pesticide applications to be permitted under the Clean Water Act. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit would be in addition to the less protective label requirements under FIFRA. EPA drafted proposed rules in 2010 outlining the applicability of the permits for pesticide usage. Since then, industry has lobbied hard to get Congress to prevent this measure from going into effect this year.

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