Legislation Introduced To Fight Against West Nile Virus

U.S. Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Mike Johanns (R-NE) have re-introduced legislation to eliminate a costly and redundant Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permit requirement for applications of pesticides.  S. 175, amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by stating that no permit shall be required for the use of a pesticide that is registered under the Act.  It also eliminates the redundant requirement that Clean Water Act permits are not needed for the applications of pesticides. Senator Roberts introduced similar legislation in the 112th Congress where it was blocked from consideration on the Senate floor.  Last year both the House and the Senate Agriculture Committees overwhelmingly passed similar legislation, H.R. 872, with strong bipartisan support.

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 FIFRA.

In response to the Sixth Circuit Court ruling, EPA has enforced a now permanent rule requiring approximately 35,000 pesticide applicators to get permits to cover about 500,000 applications per year. EPA’s own estimates state the redundant 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.

Public health officials are particularly concerned about the requirements as it restricts their ability to control mosquitoes, and the spread of diseases like the West Nile virus.

S. 175 has the following original cosponsors: Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), 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).

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Tim Cansler