Energy & Environment

92 lawmakers ask EPA to reconsider decreased herbicide allowances

(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
A field of corn grows near Ashland, Neb., Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

A group of 92 House lawmakers wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Monday asking it to reconsider its proposed rule decreasing allowances for a widely used herbicide. 

EPA Administrator Michael Regan has taken aim at the use of atrazine, commonly used to protect corn, sugarcane and other crops from weeds, as part of a years-long review of the herbicide that included an agency risk assessment in 2016 finding certain levels can pose risks for animals like fish and amphibians.

The proposed rule would seek to lower atrazine runoff by prohibiting application of the herbicide from the air, restricting annual use to 2 pounds per acre and banning use within 48 hours before forecasted rain.

It would also lower the aquatic ecosystem concentration equivalent level of concern (CE-LOC) — the threshold EPA sets as the tolerable concentration in a watershed — from 15 parts per billion to 3.4 parts per billion, aligning with the findings of the 2016 assessment.

“Perhaps the most concerning change is that EPA has relied on invalid studies and questionable conclusions to make the decision to reduce the CE-LOC from 15 ppb to 3.4 ppb,” the lawmakers wrote.

“This is a significant change which contradicts the previous overwhelming scientific consensus supporting a CE-LOC of 15 ppb and will have widespread impacts on the use and effectiveness of atrazine products,” the letter continues.

Ninety-one Republicans signed the letter. Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. (Ga.), who represents a major agricultural area, was the lone House Democrat to sign on.

EPA is currently accepting comments on the proposal, and the 92 lawmakers called on Regan to convene a formal scientific advisory panel after the comment period closes to review current scientific evidence before moving forward.

The lawmakers also characterized the agency’s new proposed list of mitigation measures for producers using atrazine in areas above the lowered threshold as “unworkable,” calling on EPA to reissue a mitigation list that producers can implement for comment.

“We are alarmed by the agency’s departure from sound science by changing the CE-LOC, and also with the mitigation measures in the proposed revisions,” they wrote.

The Hill has reached out to EPA for comment.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), who helped lead the letter effort, said the group’s pushback is supported by agricultural trade groups including the National Corn Growers Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“Corn growers know the value of atrazine, and it is time again that we tell EPA the value of this product to our operations,” National Corn Growers Association President Chris Edgington said last month. “In 2016, we came together to submit 10,000 comments to the EPA, and we need that same momentum again.”

Tags agriculture American Farm Bureau Federation atrazine Environmental Protection Agency Herbicide Michael Regan Michael Regan National Corn Growers Association Sanford Bishop Vicky Hartzler
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