Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill led a bipartisan group of senators in introducing legislation that would eliminate a costly and redundant U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation affecting pesticide users. S. 340, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act (SEPA), seeks to clarify congressional intent concerning the federal regulation of pesticides and codify longstanding interpretation of regulatory statutes after a 2009 court ruling imposed an additional layer of needless red tape on pesticide applicators. The bill is also cosponsored by Idaho Senator Jim Risch.
For more than 30 years, the EPA has implemented a comprehensive and rigorous regulatory structure for pesticide applications under what is commonly known as FIFRA, or the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. FIFRA governs the sale, distribution and use of pesticides, with the goal of protecting human health and the environment. The statute requires pesticides to be evaluated (undergoing more than 100 tests) and registered with EPA, and for users to comply with agency-approved, uniform labeling standards. Unfortunately, despite this federal regulatory framework already in place, a 2009 court decision forced EPA to begin requiring Clean Water Act (CWA) permits for certain applications of pesticides in or near water. This duplicative regulatory requirement went into effect in 2011.
"For too long, a variety of stakeholders in Idaho and across the nation have been subjected to unnecessary and duplicative federal regulations that add compliance costs and increase the threat of litigation," said Crapo. "SEPA will restore the proper regulatory regime for the use of pesticides Congress intended and provide much needed regulatory relief for our farmers, irrigators, pest control authorities, forest managers and others."
"Idaho businesses, farmers, irrigation districts, and many more are being disproportionately impacted by these redundant EPA and other federal regulations" said Risch. "This legislation would take another step to reduce red tape and bureaucracy."
SEPA clarifies that CWA permits are not required for pesticide applications in or near water. The bill also requires EPA to report back to Congress on whether the FIFRA process can be improved to better protect human health and the environment.
As a result of this dual regulation, EPA has estimated an additional 365,000 pesticide users—including farmers, ranchers, state agencies, cities, counties, mosquito control districts, water districts, pesticide applicators and forest managers that perform 5.6 million pesticide applications annually—were required to obtain CWA permits. This is nearly double the number of entities previously subjected to permitting requirements, costing more than $50 million a year.
In addition to Sens. Crapo, Risch and McCaskill, Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Nebraska), Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) joined in introducing the measure.