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Bill Would Stop Regulation of Pesticide Use Near Water

June 24, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Just as new revelations are emerging about the possible link between the most widely-used pesticide in the U.S. and human birth defects, Congress is working to liberalize pesticide-use policy to allow farmers and local governments to spray near public waterways without having to seek special permission under the Clean Water Act.

On Tuesday, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee unanimously approved H.R 872, a bill “to amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify Congressional intent regarding the regulation of the use of pesticides in or near navigable waters, and for other purposes.” The House of Representatives passed the bill on March 31st by a vote of 292-130.

The bill would override a 2009 federal court ruling that agricultural chemicals, even those approved for use by the EPA, qualify as “chemical waste” under the Clean Water Act and, therefore, should require a special permit and set of guidelines to be sprayed in, around, and over bodies of water. The bill’s supporters argue that the special permits for use near water constitute duplicative regulation since the chemicals have already approved for general use by one government agency. Opponents argue that applying the Clean Water Act’s guidelines for minimizing how much chemical makes it into our water supply is good because, well, minimizing the amount of chemicals in our water is good.

With the unanimous Senate committee approval, it’s very likely that the bill will be passed by the full Senate soon. No word yet from the Obama Administration as to whether he will sign it or veto it. The “Clean Water Framework” released by the Obama Administration in April includes a plan to “ensure water quality to protect human health,” but it does not specifically mention agricultural sprays as a concern.

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