Attack of the Killer Weeds

Pesticide Hypocrisy on Capitol Hill

December 14, 1999

Attack of the Killer Weeds: Congressional Double Standards

In the past 6 years, at least 107 different members of Congress have written letters to the EPA requesting that the agency grant or expedite emergency pesticide use exemptions for growers in their states. Of these 107, 84 are still in the Congress, and of these, 53 are cosponsors of HR1592 and S1464, legislation written by the pesticide industry that would drastically curb EPA's authority to protect children from pesticides, even in the face of overwhelming evidence of hazards (Appendix 1).

The Section 18 exemptions these members seek allow a pesticide to be used without complete science to support an assessment of its safety for children. In contrast, the legislation they cosponsor, HR1542 and S1464, would forbid the EPA from restricting any use of a pesticide if the agency used any of a number of generally accepted, routinely employed, peer-reviewed, risk assessment assumptions. Even in cases where the agency did not use conservative assumptions, the bills would require EPA to wade through a new and time-consuming bureaucratic morass before it could act to restrict a chemical, regardless of the preponderance of the evidence that the pesticide is unsafe for children. Specifically, before taking any action to protect a child from a pesticide, the agency would be forced to issue formal "data call-in" notices for any outstanding information, wait years for the data to be generated, analyze the data and issue a formal report on it before taking action to protect children.

Further, HR1542 and S1464 would actually ease the already flimsy rules for emergency exemptions by amending FQPA to allow the Administrator to issue a tolerance for an exemption "without regard to other tolerances for that pesticide and before reassessing [the risk to children from] those other tolerances" (Section 8(b)) [brackets added]. The EPA registered strong opposition to these new requirements in a letter to the Chair of the House Agriculture Committee on August 13, 1999 (Appendix 3).

Over 100 members of Congress have written to the agency on behalf of Section 18 requests from their states. Members of the Idaho congressional delegation sent the most letters urging action on a Section 18 exemption, with Senator Larry Craig filing 13, followed by Senator Mike Crapo with 12 letters, and Representative Helen Chenoweth with 11. California topped all states with the most cosponsors requesting Section 18 decisions, with 18, led by Representatives Cal Dooley and Gary Condit with four each during the six years analyzed (1994-1999).