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H.R. 953 (115th): Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017

H.R. 953 amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (also known as the Clean Water Act of CWA) to clarify that it is the intent of Congress that pesticides registered and properly used under FIFRA do not require an additional CWA permit for their use in or around navigable waters.

FIFRA governs the sale and use of pesticides in the U.S. through registration and labeling, in order to “protect human health and the environment from unreasonable adverse effects of pesticides.” FIFRA requires all pesticides be labeled indicating approved uses and restrictions. The objective of the CWA is to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s water.” It does this through prohibiting the discharge of a pollutant without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.

In 30 years of administering the CWA, the EPA had not required an NPDES permit for the application of a pesticide when the pesticide is applied in a manner consistent with FIFRA. In the 1990s, citizen suits began being filed contending that an NPDES permit is necessary when applying a FIFRA-permitted product into a body of water. This resulted in numerous court decisions that created confusion regarding pesticide use under the CWA.

A 2006 EPA rule codified the long-standing interpretation that the application of a FIFRA-approved pesticide did not require an NPDES permit. However, this rule was vacated in 2009 by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which required the EPA to develop and implement a new NPDES permitting process under the CWA to cover pesticide use. Rather than defending EPA’s long held position, the Obama Administration decided to institute a duplicative permitting process.

The new permitting process has increased the administrative and monetary burden on pesticide applicators, sometimes imposing as much as $50,000 in compliance costs annually for small businesses and local governments.

This legislation, which is consistent with EPA’s 2006 rule, eliminates the duplicative NPDES permit requirement for the application of pesticides.

Last updated May 22, 2017. Source: Republican Policy Committee

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on May 24, 2017.

Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017

(Sec. 2) This bill amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (commonly known as the Clean Water Act) to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency or a state from requiring a permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) for a discharge of a pesticide from a point source into navigable waters if the discharge is approved under FIFRA. Point source pollution is waste discharged from a distinct place, such as a pipe, channel, or tunnel.

(Sec. 3) NPDES permits are required for: (1) a discharge resulting from the application of a pesticide in violation of FIFRA that is relevant to protecting water quality, if the discharge would not have occurred but for the violation or the amount of pesticide or pesticide residue contained in the discharge is greater than would have occurred without the violation; (2) stormwater discharges regulated under NPDES; and (3) discharges regulated under NPDES of manufacturing or industrial effluent or treatment works effluent and discharges incidental to the normal operation of a vessel, including a discharge resulting from operations concerning ballast water held in ships to increase stability or vessel biofouling prevention.