By Jerry Hagstrom, DTN Political Correspondent
WASHINGTON (DTN) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will not bring up a House-passed bill to eliminate a pesticide permit requirement until senators who have placed holds on the bill and advocates for it have worked out a deal, Senate Agriculture Chairman Debbie Stabenow said Tuesday.
The measure would eliminate a requirement that farmers and public health agencies apply for a permit to use a pesticide over water under certain circumstances. The House has already passed the legislation.
The Senate Agriculture Committee has approved the bill, Stabenow said, but she noted that Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is one of the senators who have placed a hold on the bill. Boxer wants the bill to have to move through her committee before coming to the floor for a debate.
Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, has told senators he “won’t bring it up unless we can work it out,” Stabenow, D-Mich., told the American Soybean Association legislative conference. Farm and municipal government leaders have said the bill eliminates a duplicative regulatory burden, but some environmental groups have objected to the bill.
Stabenow noted that the requirement resulted from a court decision, and that the Environmental Protection Agency has extended the deadline by which the applications would need to be filed. “EPA has been helpful, they did not ask for this,” Stabenow said, but she added that time to deal with the issue is running out.
Stabenow was referring to a January 2009 decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals 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 permit would be in addition to any label requirements or restrictions already placed on the use of a pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
The EPA program could affect about 365,000 pesticide applicators nationwide, including some 5.6 million pesticide applications annually, according to EPA estimates. In addition, EPA estimates that the general permit will cost applicators at least $50 million per year and an additional $2 million per year for EPA to administer the program.
Environmentalists want site-specific permit programs in place of general permits to more closely prevent pesticides from reaching water. EPA has said it doesn’t have the resources to monitor what could be millions of site-specific permits.
The House appropriations bill for EPA, which is expected to be debated before the end of this month, also has language comparable to the bill passed earlier by the House and would block EPA from issuing the permits.
Unless Congress acts, EPA has until Oct. 31 to implement the permit program. It’s expected EPA would issue a proposed rule on the program by the end of this month.
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