Daily News Archive
From August 1, 2006                                                                                                        

ACTION ALERT: Senate Bill To Undermine Water Protection
(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2006)
Contact your Senators and ask them to stand with you in opposing the chemical industry’s "Pest Management and Fire Suppression Flexibility Act." This bill has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives, so it is especially important that it is stopped in the Senate.The vote in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was postponed until September 2006, so we have even more time to act. See list of committee members and help rally public opinion, especially in those states. You may paste the sample letter below on your Senators' web form.

Under the guise of “unnecessary permit requirements,” S. 1269 reduces existing protections under the Clean Water Act (CWA) intended to prevent water contamination from pesticide use. Currently, under the Clean Water Act, pesticide use that contaminates water may only be allowed if a state permit is obtained under the national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES). This rule is now being challenged in Congress under Bill S. 1269 because the pesticide industry and users prefer the lax protection of water resources under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which creates pesticide labels. If left to FIFRA, most pesticide spraying in and over waterways would ensue without oversight because pesticide labels specify how the pesticide should be used, but more often than not are silent on questions of chemical discharge into water. More on this issue from the May 9, 2005 Daily News.

Bill S. 1269 amends that understanding under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (popularly known as the Clean Water Act) to state that the EPA Administrator shall not require a permit under the national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES), nor require a state to mandate such a permit, for: (1) the proper use of a pesticide that is registered or otherwise approved for use under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA); and (2) the use by or in cooperation with the federal or state government of a fire retardant, chemical, or water for fire suppression, control, or prevention in accordance with relevant federal guidelines; (3) silvicultural (forestry) activities except for specified point source activities; and (4) the use of biological control organisms for the prevention, control, or eradication of plant pests or noxious weeds pursuant to specified provisions of the Plant Protection Act. The bill also redefines "point source" to exclude from the term those used for public health protection, pest management, and silvicultural activities, thus exempting them from NPDES permit requirements under this Act.

Sample Letter

Dear [Senator __________ ],

I am writing to ask that you do not allow the passage of Bill S. 1269, the Pest Management and Fire Suppression Flexibility Act. EPA writes on its website that, “Since its introduction in 1972, the NPDES permit program is responsible for significant improvements to our Nation's water quality.”

In effect, this Bill will single-handedly remove vast protections of water from pesticide use. Supporters of the Bill argue that the Clean Water Act (CWA) duplicates FIFRA. They say that as long as the pesticide is used according to the label then additional oversight under CWA is not necessary. The truth is that while pesticide labels specify how the pesticide should be used (i.e. for what crop or pest), more often than not the label is silent on questions of chemical discharge into water. Supporters of the Bill also argue that before a label is approved the U.S. EPA determines whether its use will pose an unacceptable risk to water quality or aquatic species. The truth is however, EPA is severely limited in its ability to make that determination for every single waterway in the U.S. EPA does not take into account specific local conditions of particular waterways (for example where there may be depleted aquatic organisms, endangered fish or other species, or sensitive habitat). FIFRA monitors pesticides. CWA monitors water quality. It is that simple.

Pest control applicators are supporting this Bill alongside the pesticide industry and defending their ability to apply pesticides to water when the FIFRA label does not specifically protect water. The reality however is that CWA forces pest operators to seek other approaches to pest management when and if their current pesticide use pattern is going to contaminate nearby water sources. As there is abundant information on integrated pest management and non-chemical solutions, provided even by EPA, this Bill is a giant leap backwards.

Lastly, please also be aware that at least two recent federal court decisions have affirmed that the spraying of pesticides into water is a “point source” and a “pollutant” and subject to the Clean Water Act.

The passing of this Bill constitutes a reversal of past policy. Please, protect our waterways from pesticide pollution - do not allow FIFRA to trump CWA! Vote NO on Bill S. 1269, the Pest Management and Fire Suppression Flexibility Act.

[Your name]
[Your address]