Senate committee approves bill to correct duplicative pesticide permit requirements
Washington—The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Aug. 5 approved a Farm Bureau-supported bill, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act (S. 1500), that would clarify that lawful applications of pesticides regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) are not subject to permitting under the Clean Water Act.
A 2009 decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit erroneously applied the provisions of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permitting process under the Clean Water Act to pesticide applications that were already fully regulated under FIFRA. If left unchanged, this court ruling could impose duplicative and unnecessary permitting requirements on farmers and ranchers, American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman warned in a letter to EPW committee members.
“Requiring permits for lawful pesticide applications provides negligible, if any, environmental benefit because pesticide applications are already reviewed and regulated for use through strict instructions on the EPA-approved product label,” Stallman wrote. “Under FIFRA, EPA approves labels and specifies the manner of application, which includes a thorough review of impacts to water quality and aquatic species.”
The redundant regulation is an extra burden for farmers but does nothing to further protect the environment or water quality. Permitting pesticide applications will also impose a resource burden on state regulators responsible for protecting health and the environment. The biggest concern though, according to Stallman, is that the permit requirement exposes farmers and ranchers to citizen lawsuits under the Clean Water Act for ordinary, essential and lawful crop protection practices.
The Sensible Environmental Protection Act “removes this unnecessary and duplicative burden without weakening stringent FIFRA requirements for pesticide applications,” Stallman said.
In March, the House Agriculture Committee approved a similar measure, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015 (H.R. 897).