In response to a petition filed by CropLife America (CLA), industry interest groups and environmental activists, a Sixth Circuit U.S. Federal Court panel has vacated EPA's NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Final Rule. In discharging the Final Rule, the panel held that the Rule was an unreasonable interpretation of the Clean Water Act but agreed with EPA's assertion that not all pesticides should be classified as pollutants.
"We maintain that pesticides should not be classified as pollutants under the CWA, as they serve an intended beneficial purpose and are well regulated already by EPA's Office of Pesticides," said Jay Vroom, CLA president and CEO. "Though we're disappointed by other parts of the court's conclusion, we are pleased that the panel acknowledged that EPA was correct in its determination that not all pesticides should be considered pollutants."
The panel declined to follow other courts, specifically in No Spray Coalition vs. City of New York and Peconic Baykeeper vs. Suffolk County, which found that miniscule residues in water are a natural consequence of the use of the pesticides for the purpose for which they were approved by EPA. Though the panel made no recommendation or directive to EPA in its opinion, as a result of the Sixth Circuit's ruling the administration of NPDES permit requirements for pesticides will revert to those procedures in place prior to the adoption of the Final Rule. Petitioners have 45 days to file for appeal with the entire Sixth Circuit.
"There are legal questions raised by this decision which are left unanswered," said Doug Nelson, CLA executive vice president and general counsel. "As a result, this ruling may require further review by this court en banc, a subsequent court decision or a legislative solution to insure American agriculture is not jeopardized."
"The crop protection industry and our regulators take environmental and health concerns into account as products are developed and registered for the purpose of supporting America's agriculture to ensure the nation's food supply remains abundant and affordable," Vroom said. "Of course, pesticides serve many other beneficial purposes in addition to agricultural uses-protecting rights-of-way from invasive weeds, controlling disease spreading mosquitoes, and checking plant diseases that attack ornamental plants. Along with Congressionally mandated pesticide regulation carefully administered by EPA, state governments play a key role in helping with enforcement of pesticide use restrictions. With this network of existing well defined regulation, we're confident that both America's waters and crops are properly protected."