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Environment

U.S. House passes pesticide deregulation bill

Proponents recast bill as way to help fight Zika virus

by Jessica Morrison
May 26, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 22

The U.S. House of Representatives last week approved a measure that would reduce Clean Water Act permitting requirements for applying pesticides.

The bill, H.R. 897, would eliminate, through Sept. 30, 2018, Clean Water Act permits required by the Environmental Protection Agency for pesticide use near navigable waters.

The bill is lawmakers’ response to a 2009 federal appeals court ruling that forced EPA to impose stricter permit requirements for pesticide use near waterways.

The measure was first introduced in February 2015 as the proposed Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act. It was renamed the Zika Vector Control Act prior to its passage to reflect growing concerns about controlling mosquitoes that spread the Zika virus, its proponents say.

“We need to be proactive and give those responsible for public health the tools to prevent an outbreak, not wait until there’s an epidemic,” says Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio), who introduced the bill. Gibbs is chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources & Environment.

A companion bill, S. 1500, is pending a vote by the full Senate.

The Obama White House opposes the move, saying most federal, state, and local agencies already have authority to spray for mosquitoes to respond to Zika.

It adds, “Rebranding legislation that removes important Clean Water Act protections for public health and water quality is not an appropriate avenue for addressing the serious threat to the nation that the Zika virus poses.”

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