Maryland Senator Fights Bill That Threatens Clean Water
Long-time advocate of cleaning up the polluted Chesapeake Bay, Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), is risking relations with fellow democrats to fight a bill that would threaten clean water regulation.
Under the Bush administration, a 2007 EPA rule allowed all pesticides permitted under the Fungicide, Insecticide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to be exempt from the Clean Water Act, which required additional permitting that encouraged applicators to use other methods before resorting to chemicals.
Under FIFRA, pesticide manufacturers are allowed to use the maximum amount of pesticide that would not cause unreasonable and adverse effects. Unfortunately, these “unreasonable and adverse effects” are often not predicted prior to approval. The widely used atrazine, for example, continues to be used, despite a number of studies linking its presence in drinking water to birth defects.
The Clean Water Act is more specific. It requires pesticide applicators looking to apply pesticides near water to obtain a special permit, and encourages applicators to consider alternatives before spraying.
A 2009 ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the exemption, and allowed the permit requirements of the Clean Water Act to stand.
H.R. 872, which breezed through the House of Representatives in March, and the Senate Agricultural Committee in June, would reverse the court decision by prohibiting the EPA or any state agency from requiring secondary permitting, despite potential danger to local waterways.
As a first-hand witness to the potential destruction pesticides can cause to local water, the junior Maryland senator has threatened to fillibuster the proposal, believing the issue is, at the very least, worthy of debate. In an article by John Fritze, of the Baltimore Sun, Cardin said, “Pesticides have a direct impact on our water. The hold allows us to use a more deliberative process and that gives us more of a chance to review” the legislation.