In a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, state water pollution regulators and agriculture officials asked the EPA to seek a six-month stay of a federal appeals court order requiring that pesticide discharges to US waters be covered by Clean Water Act (CWA) permits.
The requirement for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits was mandated by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which in January ’09 vacated an EPA rule authorizing permit exemptions for farmers, public health officials, and ranchers who apply pesticides into, over, or near water bodies to control mosquitoes and other pests. Most states operate the NPDES program themselves and these states would issue their own permits.
The Sixth Circuit order has been stayed until April 9, and the state regulators want an extension beyond that date.
According to EPA, the permit program is estimated to affect approximately 365,000 pesticide applicators nationwide. The letter to Jackson said the number of NPDES permittees is likely to exceed this number.
A spokesman for the Assoc. of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators said that while some states already have general permits and are ready to go, many are waiting for EPA to issue its own general permit which they plan to use as a model. EPA was expected to issue its general permit in late ’10, but has not yet done so. EPA officials recently told a group of stakeholders that the permit was expected to be issued the first part of March.
While EPA has been briefing state officials regularly on the process, state regulators are saying that the delay has come to the point where they can't wait any more.
The letter states, "EPA has not finalized and circulated this permit, which will be used in jurisdictions where EPA administers the NPDES program. This delay has compromised authorized states' ability to finalize their permits, as many of these states are using the federal permit as a design and implementation template." Because the permit will apply to a large number of pesticide applicators who have never before required NPDES permit coverage, the letter said, "it is imperative" that they have sufficient time to understand how to comply with permit requirements.
EPA has not yet issued a response to this request.