The U.S. House of Representatives has taken the first step in freeing pesticide applicators from having to obtain NPDES permits for applications over or near water with the passage of H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act.

Now, the Senate needs to follow through by passing similar legislation that would require EPA to stop development of a permitting system that its own research shows would take more than a million hours of applicators’ time to complete annually.

That’s the message members of the Southern Crop Production Association took to their congressmen, senators and staff members during the group’s annual trek to Capitol Hill on May 12. More than 30 crop protection and seed company representatives traveled to Washington for the event.

EPA began working on a permitting system after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the agency’s 2006 ruling that aquatic pesticide applications were exempt from the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System requirements.

The Court said EPA must have a new permitting system for such applications – which include spraying for mosquitoes by municipal and state abatement districts and unwanted aquatic vegetation by parks departments – by April 1. EPA subsequently sought and received an extension of the deadline until Oct. 31.

Currently, all pesticides must undergo extensive testing for safety in a variety of application environments under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. The pesticide label spells out conditions in which pesticides cannot be sprayed.

“Pesticide permits under the Clean Water Act do not provide further protection of water quality,” said Ed Duskin, executive director of the SCPA who coordinated the visits that included 69 members of Congress and their staffs. “The permits only burden state regulators and applicators with tremendous cost and mountains of paperwork.”