Last week, our national pesticide laws were the target of a sneak attack. An amendment that would have stripped EPA's power to protect our nation's waterways was attached to — of all things — the completely unrelated China Currency bill.
If the stakes weren't so high, it would be laughable. Attached as an amendment to what? Thanks in no small part to hundreds of outraged phone calls to the Senate from PAN supporters, the offending amendment was pulled — for the time being.
Here's the scoop. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) had introduced stand-alone legislation earlier this year (S.718) exempting pesticides from key Clean Water Act requirements. This legislation — and the companion bill already passed in the House (H.R.872) — are efforts to end-run a federal court's 2009 finding that pesticides are not exempt from the Clean Water Act.
Sneaking around a legislative "hold"
Since the water law is so much stricter than our national pesticide law (the 40+ year-old Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or "FIFRA"), pesticide industry lobbyists are eagerly looking for a way out.
A group of Senators who understand what's at stake put a hold on Roberts' proposed legislation months ago. But when it became clear last week that the China Currency legislation was moving forward quickly, Roberts quietly tacked his blocked bill on as an amendment.
In part because of the stink made last Thursday by concerned people around the country, Roberts ended up pulling his amendment. There was also archane procedural and political maneuvering in play, as there so often is.
Another attempt likely soon
Our "inside the beltway" colleagues tell us to keep a careful eye out, as the interests behind this bill are likely to look for other opportunities to move it forward in the coming weeks. According to the court decision, EPA is to start protecting waterways from pesticides under Clean Water Act standards by October 31 of this year.
Many thanks to everyone who picked up the phone to call your Senators last week. Together, we stopped this effort to undermine the laws protecting our waterways — and our health — from dangerous pesticides. We'll keep you posted as this important policy battle unfolds.