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March 21, 2013
Bill would negate pesticide general permit

Those in the agricultural community opposed to EPA’s 2011 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) pesticide general permit (PGP) for point source discharges from the application of pesticides to waters of the United States continue to find a voice in Congress as demonstrated by a reintroduced bill to overturn the PGP. 

Sponsored by seven House members (five Republicans and two Democrats), the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2013 (HR 935) is a carbon copy of a 2011 bill that passed the House but was not considered by the Senate after it advanced out of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.  Under both versions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would not be allowed to require a NPDES permit for a discharge from a point source into navigable waters of a pesticide authorized for sale, distribution, or use under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). 

Court vacatur

The prohibition against requiring NPDES permitting was established by the G.W. Bush EPA in a 2006 rule.  But in 2009, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in National Cotton Council et al. v. EPA vacated the 2006 action, stating that point source discharges of biological pesticides and chemical pesticides into waters of the United States are pollutants under the Clean Water Act if they leave a residue.  The EPA followed with its 2011 action, which covers the six states where the Agency is the NPDES permitting authority.  States that hold NPDES authority must either adopt the EPA PGP or develop permits of their own.

Eliminate redundancy

According to several of the bill’s sponsors, the main objective is to eliminate unnecessary regulations.

“The [bill] removes duplicative and costly red-tape requirements that provide no additional health or environmental benefits while providing assurance that the pesticide community is not subject to redundant permitting requirements if they comply with EPA’s current regulations,” said Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), the bill’s main sponsor. 

HR 935 contains three categories of exceptions to the permitting exemptions—for discharges resulting from the application of a pesticide in violation of FIFRA; for stormwater discharges subject to FIFRA; and for regulated discharges from manufacturing facilities and treatment works effluent, as well as discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel, including a discharge resulting from ballasting operations or vessel biofouling prevention.

HR 935 is available at Thomas.loc.gov.