The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee overwhelmingly approved a bill to eliminate the requirement for certain pesticide uses to have a Clean Water Act (CWA) permit.

H.R. 872, the “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011,” is bipartisan legislation that was introduced in the House by Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Gibbs, R-Ohio, Transportation Committee Member and Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition and Horticulture Schmidt, R-Ohio, and other members. The Committee approved the legislation by a vote of 46 to 8.

The bill reverses a 2009 decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in National Cotton Council v. EPA. This decision vacated a 2006 EPA rule and long-standing interpretation that the application of a pesticide for its intended purpose and in compliance with the requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) does not also require a separate permit under the CWA.

The court-ordered deadline for EPA to promulgate the new permitting process for pesticides is April 9, 2011. EPA has estimated that approximately 365,000 pesticide users, including state agencies, cities, counties, mosquito control districts, water districts, pesticide applicators, farmers, ranchers, forest managers, and scientists that perform 5.6 million pesticide applications annually will be affected by the court’s ruling. This mandate virtually would double the number of entities currently subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting under the CWA.

H.R. 872 exempts from the NPDES permitting process a discharge to waters involving the application of a pesticide authorized for sale, distribution, or use under FIFRA, where the pesticide is used for its intended purpose and the use is in compliance with pesticide label requirements. The legislation would amend FIFRA and the CWA to clarify Congressional intent and eliminate the duplicative NPDES requirement.

The bill was reported unanimously out of the House Agriculture Committee last week. Currently, 23 Democrats and 70 Republicans are official cosponsors. Bill proponents would like to see it pass the House within the next two weeks.

The NCC issued an Action Alert for members to contact their Representatives to urge them to co-sponsor the bill if they already are not a co-sponsor. The alert and current list of cosponsors are available on the NCC’s website at www.cotton.org.