Senate Introduces Sensible Environmental Protection Act to Affirm FIFRA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – CropLife America (CLA) commends Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo) for introducing S. 1500 on June 3, 2015, to affirm the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and amend the Clean Water Act (CWA). The Sensible Environmental Protection Act will reverse a 2009 federal court decision in National Cotton Council v EPA which directed the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) to require permits from applicators who spray over “navigable waters” as defined in the CWA. Similar legislation to address this matter has also been introduced in the House (H.R. 897). 

The Sixth Circuit’s 2009 erroneous ruling in NCC v EPA replaced decades of legal, legislative and regulatory precedence established under FIFRA and added a needless layer of paperwork for agriculture, public health officials and government agencies. Many mosquito control officials and some farmers and pest managers for forests, waterways, parks and other situations are currently required to obtain National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for certain pesticide applications to, over or near waters of the United States. The legislation introduced by Senators Crapo and McCaskill would correct the misguided ruling in NCC v EPA and eliminate duplicative regulation and legal vulnerability, thus allowing farmers and pest managers to protect the public and the national food supply from harmful insect-borne diseases and pathogens.  

“We applaud Senators Crapo and McCaskill for introducing this legislation to prevent and remove the unnecessary and redundant regulation of pesticides for both agriculture and non-agriculture users,” stated Jay Vroom, CEO and president of CLA. “Similar bills have been introduced by the House and Senate for the last three Congresses, and we appreciate the continued bipartisan and bicameral support of responsible pesticide use under FIFRA. The new Clean Water Rule holds potential for expanded federal jurisdiction that could particularly impact the permit's burden on farmers. CLA will continue to work with Congress and the regulated community to ensure that farmers and other pesticide users can use and access much-needed crop, resource and public health protections.” 

EPA estimated that the permitting requirements affect at least 365,000 applicators who perform millions of applications annually. Aquatic applicators without permits are currently subjected to fines of up to $37,500 per day. Under the Senate’s proposed legislation, pesticides applied in accordance with the FIFRA label would not be considered a pollutant and would not require NPDES permits. 

“Since its passage in 1947, FIFRA has been protective of human health and the environment,” Vroom added. “State agencies, already strained, must currently divert limited resources from programs that protect the environment to complete time-consuming paperwork for aquatic pesticide applications. Through passing the Sensible Environmental Protection Act, Congress can remove the burden on states and pesticide applicators and reinforce the robust and stringent regulatory standards on the labels of all crop protection, resource and public health protection products.”

Michael Leary