WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) have introduced legislation to eliminate a burdensome, costly and redundant Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permit requirement for applications of pesticides.
"Not only is EPA pursuing regulations that are economically crippling, they are also pursuing regulations that are clearly duplicative,” Johanns said. “The agenda being pushed by this Administration’s EPA amounts to more red tape, more roadblocks and more needless headaches. President Obama has repeatedly promised to eliminate duplicative regulations, but actions speak louder than words. That’s why we’re acting on an economically and environmentally responsible solution to this government-made problem.”
Roberts said, “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. This creates confusion and the potential for significant penalties. Our bill eliminates this redundant permit requirement while at the same time ensuring proper pesticide use through existing law.”
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 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. EPA estimates determined the permit rule will cost states, local entities and pesticide applicators $50 million and require one million hours to implement per year. Under the Clean Water Act, unlawful discharges are subject to $37,500 per day in fines.
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. It is also a significant issue for agriculture.
The 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: Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Roy Blunt (R-MO) John Barrasso (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), David Vitter (R-LA), Michael Enzi (R-WY), James Inhofe (R-OK) and John Boozman (R-AR).