On June 21, 2011 the Senate Agriculture Committee approved H.R. 872 which would effectively restore regulatory authority for pesticide application to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The Bill will now go to the full Senate for approval.
Passed by the House on March 31, 2011, H.R. 872 would prohibit the EPA or a state from requiring CWA permits for discharges of a FIFRA-approved pesticide into navigable waters. The legislation is in response to the Sixth-Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in National Cotton et. al. v. EPA which found that the CWA required NPDES permits for pesticide application even if such application was already approved by FIFRA. Further information on the National Cotton case can be found on this Environmental Appeals Court blog.
Proponents of the Bill, such as the USA Rice Federation, claim that the Court’s ruling would create unnecessary burdens for applying pesticides which are appropriately regulated under FIFRA. Currently, FIFRA requires all pesticides to undergo EPA testing for safety in various application environments and regulates the application process of all pesticides. A violation of the application procedure is a violation of FIFRA. The Western Farm Press issued this article summarizing the Committee’s reasoning for passing the Bill.
Countering, groups such as the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticide argue that increasing evidence proves that FIFRA and its application requirements have failed to prevent pesticide-contaminated waterways. Rather, only the EPA with CWA authority can restore these waterways to a pre-contaminated condition. The Northwest Center’s call to support clean water can be linked to here.
Many believe that the Senate will likely pass H.R. 872. However, it is unlikely the battle over pesticide regulation is over.