February 29, 2016

Advancing Regulatory Relief For Idahoans

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Legislation that would eliminate a costly and redundant U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation affecting pesticide users progressed in Congress when the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), on which I serve, approved it as an amendment to S. 659, the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act.  This is an important step in clarifying congressional intent concerning federal regulation of pesticides and codifying longstanding interpretation of regulatory statutes after a 2009 court ruling imposed an additional layer of needless red tape. 

For more than 30 years, the EPA has implemented a comprehensive and rigorous regulatory structure for pesticide applications under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  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 the EPA.  Users must 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.

Consideration of the Sportsmen's Act provided an opportunity to advance relief from this regulatory burden.  The amendment that was approved by the EPW Committee was based on the bipartisan, standalone bill S. 1500, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act (SEPA), which I introduced with fellow Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri).  Idaho Senator Jim Risch is also among the 16 fellow senators from both sides of the aisle who joined me in introducing and co-sponsoring the measure.  SEPA clarifies that CWA permits are not required for pesticide applications in or near water.  The bill also requires the EPA to report 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-will be 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 the added compliance costs, the extra permitting requirement exposes regulated entities to increased litigation risks.     

Pesticides are a tool utilized by property owners, land and wildlife managers to combat invasive species, manage vegetation and promote healthy forests, rangelands and waterways which provide habitat for fish and wildlife.  As such, the Sportsmen's Act was an appropriate measure to advance this regulatory relief issue.  Healthy habitats support our communities and the outdoor recreation activities we cherish in Idaho and millions of Americans participate in each year.  Eliminating regulatory burdens will free up time and resources for our land and wildlife managers to do their jobs and execute on the ground management objectives, which will benefit all our communities. 

I continue to maintain that we must have clean water, but overloading land and resource stewards with paperwork and red tape is not the way to achieve this goal.  Far more can be achieved by working with producers and water users to institute sensible practices.  I will continue to work for approval of this legislation as we continue to push back against the inappropriate regulatory expansion of the CWA.

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