Senators Working to Solve Pretend Problem

I took my kids swimming in a lake in Maryland last weekend. They love the water, and can stay in there for hours. But of course, now and again, they also end up drinking some of that water. Good thing we have the Clean Water Act to help protect them from toxic chemicals like pesticides in the water.

For the past almost four years, EPA has had a permit in place to inform the public about pesticides that are sprayed directly into our lakes, rivers, and streams. It's a streamlined and easy permit - requiring a few clicks on the computer to do the notification. And it protects our waterbodies from impairment from pesticides. Applicators can spray pesticides in public health emergencies and then get the permit after the fact.

And don't just take my word for it. The Environmental Protection Agency's Ken Kopocis, Deputy Assistant Administrator at the Office of Water, told Congress a few months ago that

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, including because our rule allows for post application notification. There have been no instances. We've been getting very good data, and I can actually proudly say that this is one area for EPA where we have no active litigation either for us or against us on the Pesticide General Permit.

Sounds pretty good doesn't it?

Not according to Senators who are now trying to eliminate the permits.

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will be marking up S. 1500 in an attempt to overturn these permits. Using a combination of imagined hardships and misinterpretation of the law, they are pushing to eliminate Clean Water Act protections.

By pretending that two very different laws are the same, these Senators are throwing out words like "burdensome" and "duplicative" to bully their colleagues into rolling back this important protection. The reality is that the federal pesticides law and the federal clean water laws have different goals and missions. Spraying a federally registered pesticide is not necessarily the right thing to do just because it's registered. There are times when non-chemical alternatives or a different pesticide are preferable from a public health perspective.

But if these Senators get their way, no one will ever have to think about those things. Applicators could keep dumping a pesticide into a lake already impaired by that pesticide, allowing it to become more and more toxic. And the federal pesticide law can do nothing to stop it.

So, why can't the Senators leave us alone? Let us take our families to our local watering holes this summer and not have to worry about what's in the water when they get splashed in the face. They should vote against S. 1500.


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