Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) introduced legislation this week that would eliminate a paperwork-laden redundancy in pesticide application permitting.
The bill, S. 175, is similar to H.R. 872 in the last Congress, which would have clarified Congress’ intentions that National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are not required for applications of pesticides already regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
H.R. 872 was passed by the full House of Representatives in 2011 but expired with all other pending legislation at the end of the session. The Senate Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 872’s companion legislation, though that bill faced procedural roadblocks that prevented full Senate consideration.
The issue at hand stems from a 2009 Sixth Circuit Court ruling saying for the first time that pesticide applications that could come into contact with water are point sources of pollution requiring NPDES permits in addition to compliance with FIFRA label requirements.
Since early 2012, the EPA has enforced a now-permanent rule in response to the ruling, requiring approximately 35,000 pesticide applicators to get permits to cover about 500,000 applications per year.
EPA estimates the permit rule will cost states, localities and pesticide applicators $50 million and require one million hours to implement per year. The Clean Water Act penalizes unlawful discharges with fines of $37,500 per day.
Legislative proposals to address the NPDES permitting issue have been strongly supported by NAWG and other ag groups, whose members are facing an enormous amount of new paperwork and legal and regulatory risk because of the ruling.
The new requirements are also of concern for public health officials who are now restricted in their ability to control mosquitoes and, therefore, the spread of diseases like the West Nile virus.
S. 175 was introduced with nine original co-sponsors, including 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.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.).