Pesticides, Ocean Pollution Focus of Federal Effort

“The oceans are critical to supporting life. The base of the oceanic ecosystem provides most of the oxygen we breathe, so oceans are critical to our survival.

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By Patrick Crow

“The oceans are critical to supporting life. The base of the oceanic ecosystem provides most of the oxygen we breathe, so oceans are critical to our survival.” — President Barack Obama

Pollution of major waterways and oceans has been given renewed attention in Washington, DC. Complying with a court ruling, the Environmental Protection Agency plans to draft a general National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for pesticides that could be discharged into U.S. waters.

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EPA decided in April not to ask the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its decision that vacated the agency's aquatic pesticides rule. In National Cotton Council et al. vs. EPA, issued Jan. 7, 2009, the court ruled Clean Water Act permits must be issued for both chemical and biological pesticide applications that could leave residues in U.S. waters.

In June, the court granted EPA's request to stay the mandate for two years, so it would have time to develop and issue the NPDES permit. The agency estimated the ruling will affect 365,000 pesticide applicators performing 5.6 million applications yearly. It said it would work with states, regulated firms and environmental groups to develop the general permit.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama plans greater protections for U.S. coastal areas, offshore waters, and the Great Lakes. Chief White House environmental adviser Nancy Sutley will lead a task force to recommend an action plan this summer.

The President said, “The oceans are critical to supporting life. The base of the oceanic ecosystem provides most of the oxygen we breathe, so oceans are critical to our survival.”

The study will consider challenges including climate change, pollution, degraded coastal water quality, habitat loss, fishing impacts, invasive species, disease, rising sea levels and acidification.

The Natural Resources Defense Council said the nation needs a comprehensive Healthy Oceans Policy that provides equivalent environmental protection as the Clean Air and Clean Water acts. NRDC said, “Our oceans are currently governed by more than 140 laws and 20 different agencies, each with different goals and often conflicting mandates. Our coastal waters are under the growing stresses of pollution, global warming, over-fishing and energy development. We cannot continue to let chaos rule the way we manage our seas.”

Also in June, a New York judge upheld the state's strict regulations against dumping of untreated ballast water by large ships. In the Albany County Supreme Court ruling, Justice Robert Sackett dismissed shipping interests' claim that the regulations were illegal because they were stricter than the EPA's nationwide discharge permit. State officials said untreated vessel ballast water discharges have introduced more than 180 invasive aquatic species into the Great Lakes.


About the Author: Patrick Crow covered the U.S. Congress and federal agencies for 21 years as a reporter for industry magazines. He has reported on water issues for more than 10 years. Crow is now a Houston, TX-based freelance writer.

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