he House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), today approved drafts of the "U.S. Agricultural Sector Relief Act," and the "Asthma Inhalers Relief Act." The legislative proposals, relating to implementation of the Montreal Protocol, now move to the full committee for consideration.
The "U.S. Agricultural Sector Relief Act," which passed by a vote of 15 to 6, directs the EPA to seek critical use exemptions under the Montreal Protocol treaty process to ensure the availability of the crop fumigant methyl bromide where no viable alternative is available. For decades, methyl bromide was widely used for cultivation of crops like strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and flowers, and at mills and food storage and processing facilities. Under the Montreal Protocol and Title VI of the Clean Air Act, the U.S. has phased out the use of methyl bromide except for critical uses and other exemptions. Since 2005, U.S. nominations for exemptions have declined by over 90 percent, but there is a significant concern in the agricultural sector about access to sufficient quantities and alternatives still needed to control pests and diseases.
"With this spring's devastating frosts and the subsequent summer drought, farmers in Michigan and throughout the country are already facing one of the worst growing seasons in decades," said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). "For many crops and uses there are adequate substitutes, and as a result, methyl bromide usage is down by over 90 percent. But in those cases where no viable alternative is available, methyl bromide must remain available to our growers. This legislation is critical to the livelihood of countless Michigan farmers, farming communities, and thousands of spinoff jobs like trucking and processing."
The "Asthma Inhalers Relief Act," which passed by voice vote, seeks to provide asthma patients with access to remaining inventories of the over-the-counter asthma inhaler known as Primatene Mist, which has been phased out in the U.S. under the Montreal Protocol, and Title VI of the Clean Air Act. A ban on the inhaler went into effect on December 31, 2011, and to date, no over-the-counter replacement is available. An estimated two million asthma sufferers in the United States relied on this affordable medication before the ban went into effect. This legislation would direct EPA to allow for the distribution and sale of the remaining inventories of Primatene Mist to ensure asthma patients have access to non-prescription alternatives.
"While these inhalers represent only a fraction of one percent of global CFC emissions, there is a ban on them that became effective at the end of last year," said Whitfield. "This bill simply allows the CFC inhalers already manufactured before the ban to be sold or distributed, providing a temporary supply for those asthmatics who depend on them."