By Susan M. Kirsch
On May 24, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 953, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017, by 256-165 vote. H.R. 953, which is similar to bills introduced in the past three congresses, would overturn a 2009 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit decision requiring Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for pesticide spraying activities into, over, or near waters. The legislation would eliminate NPDES permitting for pesticide spraying that complies with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
Proponents of the legislation assert that the addition of CWA regulation is duplicative, burdensome, and costly for industry without resulting in any additional environmental benefits. Opponents argue that the bill would strip clean water protections for waters already listed as impaired for pesticides. Championed by Representative Bob Gibbs (R-OH), the recent vote received significant bipartisan support, with twenty-five Democrats voting in support of the bill. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced companion legislation in the Senate (S. 340), which currently awaits action by the Committee on Environment and Public Works. The prospects for a Senate vote are mixed in light of the number of confirmations in the queue for political appointees, as well as big ticket legislative priorities, such as health care and tax reform. If legislation is enacted, it would only apply to the four states (Idaho, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Massachusetts), tribal lands, and other federally managed areas that are governed by the federal NPDES permit. Forty-six states administer state versions of pesticide permits. Mmany states would be expected to phase out permitting if the federal requirement is eliminated, however.
More information regarding CWA NPDES issues is available on our blog under key word NPDES.
By Susan M. Kirsch and Margaret R. Graham
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will be hosting several events to gather input on regulatory actions that could be repealed, replaced or modified as part of EPA’s regulatory reform efforts under Executive Order (EO) 13777.
The Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) will host a public meeting on the Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee (PPDC) on May 3, 2017, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. (EDT), and on May 4, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. (EDT). The session on May 4, 2017, will focus on receiving public feedback on pesticide regulatory reform issues. Registration will be required to attend the May 4, 2017, meeting only. Interested participants may register here. The deadline for registration is April 27, 2017.
The Office of Water (OW) will also host a listening session on May 2, 2017, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (EDT) and participants may either pre-register here to join by phone (space limited) or join via web conference here. Pre-registration is not required for web participation. The deadline for registration is April 27, 2017.
In the pesticide space, EPA-OW is responsible for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Pesticide General Permit (PGP), which requires NPDES permitting for pesticide applications into, over and near “Waters of the United States,” including mosquito abatement activities. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a 2009 decision requiring EPA to regulate pesticides under the NPDES program. Both industry and state co-regulators have criticized PGP requirements as duplicative, burdensome, and unnecessary for pesticides applied in accordance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Attempts to pass legislation that would eliminate NPDES permitting for FIFRA-compliant pesticides applications have not been successful to date. EPA’s actions under EO 13777 may offer an administrative mechanism to repeal the PGP. It is unclear, however, if a repeal would be legally defensible in light of the Sixth Circuit ruling. Alternatively, EPA could modify the PGP to eliminate the reporting and recordkeeping requirements that opponents find overly burdensome. Pesticide stakeholders may wish to join the May 2, 2017, OW listening session to provide recommendations.
Written comments on regulatory reforms on all regulatory reforms, including OW and OPP issues, will also be accepted in docket EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190, Evaluation of Existing Regulations, currently open through May 15, 2017. More details on the NPDES permit for pesticides are available in our blog item EPA Issues Final 2016 NPDES Pesticide General Permit.
By Susan M. Kirsch
On January 26, 2016, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit for Discharges from the Application of Pesticides in the Federal Register, which applies to discharges of pesticides to waters of the United States. EPA is requesting comments on the draft permit by March 11, 2016. This draft 2016 pesticide general permit (PGP) is largely an updated version of the 2011 PGP, which will expire on October 31, 2016. EPA’s permit would apply to Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Idaho, and the District of Columbia; Puerto Rico and certain other territories; as well as Indian lands and federal facilities in other states that are covered by state-developed PGPs. Separately, 46 states must update their existing permits, and some states have already begun this process or have already reissued permits within the last year.
The draft 2016 PGP retains coverage of the previous pesticide use patterns (mosquito/flying insect; weed and algae; animal pest; and forest canopy), and leaves unchanged the reliance on technology-based effluent limitations (TBELs) to satisfy permit requirements, which require proper maintenance and calibration of equipment along with visual inspections to minimize discharges and meet water quality standards and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) label requirements. The draft 2016 PGP also retains the distinctions in compliance requirements of “For-hire Applicators” and “Decision Makers,” and includes the same requirements for recordkeeping and reporting of adverse incidents. The draft permit now mandates electronic reporting, which will make Notice of Intent (NOI) and Annual Report submissions public on EPA’s e-reporting website. The draft permit retains the “joint and several liability” provision that would extend potential legal risks to all parties involved in decision-making and application of pesticides. In spite of the lack of new or altered provisions, there are some aspects of the draft 2016 PGP that could signal an EPA policy change going forward, and could potentially appear in the final version of the permit. These areas include:
- Absence of a definition for “Waters of the U.S.,” which could create confusion as to the scope of jurisdiction;
- An ongoing Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation, which could expand the list of requirements included in the final permit;
- Request for comments on whether water quality-based effluent limitations (WQBELs), such as water quality monitoring and fish tissue testing (i.e., laboratory studies), should be included in the final permit;
- Request for comments on whether additional information should be included in NOI submissions, including whether the treatment area includes a source water for public drinking water supplies; and
- An expanded discussion of required compliance with all other applicable state and federal laws, including FIFRA storage and handling requirements, which could be perceived to attach Clean Water Act liability to a PGP permittee’s violations of FIFRA and other laws.
EPA’s webpage for pesticide NPDES permitting includes links to the draft permit, fact sheet, and Federal Register docket.