Clean Water Act faces legal challenge

CropLife America (CLA) and Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE) have filed a legal challenge seeking to broaden the scope of the recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) final rule that clarifies when pesticides can be applied without first obtaining a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit.

The association was joined in its efforts by crop protection companies and allied agricultural associations including BASF, FMC, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, Delta Council, Cotton Council, Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association, Agribusiness Association of Iowa and Southern Crop Production Association, all of which are challenging the rule.

“The EPA rule, while a step in the right direction, only applies to aquatic uses and forest canopy applications of pesticides,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CropLife America. “Our challenge to the EPA is to expand the rule to all pesticides, including production agricultural uses of beneficial crop protection products and other essential uses of pesticides.”

“Broadening the rule would provide needed assurance to farmers and ranchers who follow the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) in applying pesticides that they will not need a CWA permit,” Vroom added.

CLA has maintained that FIFRA - the primary law governing the application of pesticides -effectively regulates pesticide applications on, over and near “waters of the U.S.” Further, CLA takes the position that FIFRA regulation is sufficient to ensure the safety of all pesticide uses, not just those subject to EPA’s new rule. Labeling requirements under FIFRA are imposed to protect human health and the environment. This position was supported by others in the agricultural community and by public health officials in the two rounds of public comments solicited by the EPA on this issue.

An additional factor behind the CLA challenge is that, if followed, EPA’s final rule would only remove a portion of the Clean Water Act’s ambiguity regarding the scope of NPDES permitting requirements, leaving a wide gray area concerning most activities.

CLA will proceed through the appropriate judicial channels to continue to represent the interest of growers and commodity groups.

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