CLA: NPDES Permit Has Room For Improvement

CropLife America (CLA) sees a mix of positives and areas of uncertainty in the draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Issued by the U.S. EPA June 2, the permit is currently open for a 45-day public comment period. CLA intends to work closely with stakeholders and the agricultural community before submitting comments to EPA during this short timeframe.

“CLA’s main goal is to protect the ability of growers to responsibly apply crop protection products when necessary, and this permit both mitigates some concerns while also leaving other areas open for interpretation,” says Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CLA. “Upon initial review of the permit, it appears that the EPA has remained faithful to its initial timetable and promise to keep the NPDES permit focused on a narrow set of applications. However, little time is available for states and other stakeholders to review and eventually implement the permit. There are also many unanswered questions pertaining to agricultural applications which CLA would like clarified before implementation.”

The current draft permit specifically addresses four unique situations that call for the application of crop and health protection products to water: mosquito and other flying insect pest control, aquatic weed and algae control, aquatic nuisance animal control and forest canopy pest control. CLA’s main concern is with what is not mentioned in the draft permit, specifically inadequate mention of U.S. agricultural exemptions. This opens the door for varying interpretation by a myriad of environmental and conservation organizations, and still potentially allows for farmers to fall victim to costly lawsuits and litigation.

In addition, EPA has provided a relatively short timeframe for public comments on such an important issue. Public health officials who treat bodies of water to control mosquito populations are now facing the dual challenges of a busy season while also being required to issue public comments in a short timeframe. The short time period makes it difficult for all stakeholders to fully review the lengthy draft permit and submit insightful comments, and to help EPA in implementing the most practical permit possible.

“We understand that EPA is faced with the near-impossible timelines imposed by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. We suggest that creative ways to gain additional time be considered by the EPA,” continues Vroom.

CLA is currently performing a more in-depth review of the permit and plans to submit comprehensive comments on behalf of the crop protection industry before the public comment period closes. EPA aims to finalize the permit in December 2010, and it is to take effect on April 9, 2011. The general permit will be used in states where EPA is the authorized permitting authority, leaving 44 remaining states to issue and implement their own NPDES permits.

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