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Agricultural News

As Legislative Year Closes Out, Push Continues on HR 872 in the Senate

Fri, 16 Dec 2011 14:13:11 CST

As Legislative Year Closes Out, Push Continues on HR 872 in the Senate As the legislative year draws to a close, Senators and members of the agriculture community continue pushing for consideration of H.R. 872.

The legislation would clarify Congressional intent with regards to new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements that went into effect at the end of October. The bill was passed by the House in late March on a bipartisan basis and approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee in June on a voice vote.

Despite these demonstrations of widespread support in a very tense political environment, Senators have not had the chance to consider H.R. 872 as a stand-alone piece of legislation or within another bill.

Last Thursday, a quarter of Senators signed onto a letter directed at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), asking them to allot floor time to the bill.

The signatories of that letter acknowledged the heavy legislative schedule facing the Senate, but said clarifying Congress' intent with regards to pesticide permitting is "a rare opportunity to demonstrate to the American public that Democrats and Republicans are capable of working together to address important issues."

Hill visits by agricultural stakeholders this week and last focused on the urgent need for the legislation and possible pathways to passage.

Those messages reflect the substance of a letter sent Nov. 30 by nearly 40 ag groups telling Reid and McConnell Congress should act on H.R. 872 to "restore the appropriate scope of - NPDES permitting."

The groups told Senate leaders that EPA recognizes the breadth of the NPDES program is being expanded solely because of a 2009 Sixth Circuit Court decision and will now place additional requirements on many agricultural producers, local governments and public health agencies.

These parties are already compelled to follow regulations under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which EPA has used to regulate pesticide applications for more than 30 years.

The new requirements create vast legal uncertainty about who is obligated or even eligible to get permits under the new regulations. Complicating matters is the regulatory burden the new requirements place on federal and state agencies, particularly in a time of decreasing budgets.

"We legitimately question the need for this tremendous expansion of the NPDES permit program in view of the additional burden and unwarranted legal jeopardy it now imposes on pesticide users," the groups wrote.

EPA has estimated the new requirements could affect more than five million applications each year.

Click here for more on these court mandated actions by EPA- and the Congressional efforts to counteract them.



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