Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, February 16, 2017

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121, 

House Ag Committee Moves to Gut Pesticide Pollution Protections

H.R. 953 Would Eliminate Public Right to Know When Pesticides Are Sprayed Directly Into Water

WASHINGTON— The House Agriculture Committee voted today to support a bill that would allow more pesticides to be sprayed directly into streams, lakes, rivers and drinking water supplies — a step that would put people and wildlife in harm's way from pesticide poisoning.

If enacted into law, H.R. 953 would strip away commonsense measures in place since 2011 requiring straightforward EPA permits to spray pesticides directly into water for mosquito-control activities, weed and algae control, and forest-canopy pest control.

“This legislation is just a giveaway to gigantic pesticide corporations, and deprives the public of its ability to know when pesticides are sprayed directly into rivers and lakes, even our drinking water,” said Brett Hartl at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Given that more than 1,000 U.S. waterways are already designated as impaired from pesticide pollution, it's lunacy to forbid the EPA to use the Clean Water Act to address this serious threat to public health.”

The overwhelming majority of pesticide applicators may apply for a general permit with very few restrictions on spraying, while only the largest volume applicators must receive an individual permit. Exemptions to the requirement are available in emergencies. No permit under the Clean Water Act is required for normal farming operations.

Nonetheless, since 2011 the pesticide lobby has unsuccessfully pushed iterations of the “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act” to eliminate the Pesticide General Permit. In the last Congress, an identical bill, H.R. 897, was renamed the “Zika Vector Control Act” in the hopes of using the public-health emergency as a scare tactic to enact the legislation into law.

Alarmist predictions by pesticide manufacturers and others have failed to demonstrate any significant burdens or problems in the permit's implementation. In testimony before Congress, the EPA stated: “We have not been made aware of any issues associated with the Pesticide General Permit. Nobody has brought an instance to our attention where somebody has not been able to apply a pesticide in a timely manner . . . [t]here have been no instances. We've been getting very good data.”

“This is probably one of the easiest and simplest permits to comply with in the history of the Clean Water Act, so the notion that this is a burden is just nonsense,” said Hartl. “Keeping Americans in the dark about where, when, and which pesticides are in our water may be good business for a few corporations, but it is not in the interest of our families or our environment.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.2 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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