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June 17, 2013
EPA accepting applications for methyl bromide CUEs

Entities that want to use methyl bromide in 2016 have until August 29, 2013, to apply to the EPA for critical use exemptions (CUEs) to do so.  The application process is not simple; applicants must demonstrate that there are no economically and technically feasible alternatives to methyl bromide, a demonstration that has become increasingly difficult in recent years.  An application may be submitted by a consortium representing multiple users, and the EPA encourages users with similar circumstances to submit a single application.

Historically, methyl bromide was used primarily as a fumigant.  The substance is also a powerful depleter of the earth’s protective ozone layer.  Under the Montreal Protocol, phaseout of methyl bromide was completed in 2005, but CUEs are available provided no feasible alternatives for specific uses are available.

Three CUE uses

Anyone may apply to the EPA for a CUE.  However, the Agency notes that in January 2013, the CUEs it submitted for approval by the Parties to the Protocol included only three uses–strawberries, fresh dates, and dry cured ham.  Also, since information about alternatives, economic impacts, and other factors relevant to the critical use criteria change from year to year, applicants must provide all the necessary technical and economic information whether or not a use has been nominated for a CUE in the past.

Further, applicants must show that they are taking steps to minimize their critical use of methyl bromide and any associated emissions.  Plus, applicants must describe research plans that include the pest(s), chemical(s), or management practice(s) they will be testing to support their transition from methyl bromide.

Alternatives

The bulk of EPA’s notice of solicitation of applications describes how industry has adopted alternatives for uses that previously relied heavily on methyl bromide.  For example, according to the Agency, sulfuryl fluoride, chloropicrin, and various combinations of chemicals can be used in place of methyl bromide without loss of effectiveness. 

Applicants who do not challenge the effectiveness of such alternatives, but who resist switching for financial reasons, would need to explain.  For example, regarding structures such as flour mills or rice mills, the EPA expects to receive a CUE application that details the cost to retrofit equipment for the use of heat treatment and alternative chemicals.  If an applicant’s customers request or require the use of methyl bromide (e.g., for a foreign market), the application would need to have examples of this as well.

EPA’s notice of solicitation of CUE applications was published in the May 31, 2013, FR.

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