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Zika Bill Nixes Spray Permits
Tuesday, May 24, 2016 12:50PM CDT

By Todd Neeley
DTN Staff Reporter

OMAHA (DTN) -- A federal requirement for permits to spray pesticides on water to combat mosquitos would be eliminated under legislation proposed by U.S. House of Representative lawmakers. The legislation is likely to fail, however, as the Obama administration Monday said in a statement it opposes the bill, rebranded last week as the "Zika Vector Control Act."

The bill comes as the president has criticized Congress for now passing funding to prevent more Zika cases in the U.S. Congress and the president have been battling over funding since the beginning of the year.

So House leaders repurposed the "Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act" into the Zika Vector Control Act without changing anything in the original bill. The legislation, which has bounced around Congress for years, would eliminate the federal requirements to get a permit to spray pesticides on or near water. This is something agricultural groups have wanted for years.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act requires spray applicators to obtain Clean Water Act permits to spray on water to combat mosquitos. Ag interests opposed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule because of concerns about the costs to comply and that the requirement would make it difficult to address immediate mosquito concerns.

The Zika bill may come to the House floor for a vote this week. It likely is doomed to the veto pen as the Obama administration said in a statement Monday it does not support the legislation, saying it would "weaken" the Clean Water Act, and noting it was just rebranded.

"H.R. 897 would weaken environmental protections under the Clean Water Act by exempting pesticide spraying from the currently required pesticide general permit," the White House stated. "Creating a new statutory exemption to the permit is unnecessary, as it was explicitly crafted to allow immediate responses to declared pest emergencies, thereby allowing vector control methods to be applied to the possible influx of disease-carrying mosquitos."

The White House added that most mosquito-control districts, as well as federal and state agencies, already have authority to apply mosquitocides as needed to respond to the Zika virus without any additional permit.

"In rare circumstances where a mosquito control district did not seek prior coverage under the permit, emergency provisions of the permit are available that allow instant authorization to spray without the need for prior notification," the White House stated.

The White House said that "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."

There is a concern the Zika virus will continue to spread this summer across the United States, predominantly in pregnant women and infants.

The World Health Organization has expressed concern countries around the world are not making serious efforts to control mosquitos.

Though Democratic lawmakers have pointed to the rebranding of the legislation as a political ploy by House Republicans, supporters say the idea behind the legislation is to eliminate red tape for acquiring spray permits in order to enable health officials and applicators to more quickly respond with mosquito combating efforts.

Read the bill here: http://1.usa.gov/…

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN


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