|Posted on August 26, 2014 at 2:10 PM|
Buffer agreement awaits judge’s approval
August 19, 2014 10:32AM
Federal regulators have finalized a deal with environmentalists regarding no-spray pesticide buffers around waterways.
Federal regulators and environmentalists have finalized a settlement requiring no-spray buffers for several pesticides along West Coast waterways, but opponents remain skeptical of the deal.
In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposed injunction against spraying five pesticides within 300 feet of waterways if applied aerially and 60 feet if applied on the ground.
The chemicals are carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, malathion and methomyl.
That proposal, which would settle litigation with the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, has now been formally entered into the court docket, awaiting approval from a federal judge.
The buffer zones are intended to protect endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead in Oregon, Washington and California, but critics of the deal say they’ve been set arbitrarily.
“Buffers should always be based on the best science, and these aren’t,” said Heather Hansen, executive director of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, an agricultural industry group.
The settlement has also raised questions about the enforceability of the no-spray buffers, as the EPA said they won't carry the force of labeling requirements under federal pesticide law.
Hansen said that her organization wasn’t a party to the settlement negotiations and isn’t bound by the terms of the agreement.
She added that the environmentalist lawsuit focused on insufficient consultation among EPA and fish biologists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, rather than protecting fish.
“It’s always been about the failure of two agencies to communicate with each other,” Hansen said.
The buffer zones were originally set in 2004 by a federal court after an evidentiary hearing that included expert testimony on pesticides, said Stephen Mashuda, attorney for the Earthjustice environmental law firm.
“The court didn’t pick these numbers out of a hat back then,” he said.
Those buffers expired in 2009 and the recent settlement would reinstate them.
As part of the deal, EPA will notify farmers and pesticide applicators about the restrictions and set up a website about the buffers, said Mashuda.
Mashuda said he expects growers will comply with the buffers, as they did between 2004 and 2009.
“We didn’t see a gigantic wave of non-compliance,” he said.
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