Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. President, I have come to the floor to discuss legislation we could actually pass. I am not talking about the fiscal cliff or sequester or anything quite so heavy, but nevertheless very important. It has bipartisan support, sort of, been passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee, passed out of the House of Representatives by over 300 votes, but it has yet to be brought to the Senate floor for debate. That debate could be over within a half hour.
The majority leader talks about bipartisan support for legislation and hurdles to bring the bipartisan legislation to the floor. Obviously we have them. But I want to remind the Senate that this bill has already passed the House, as I have said, with broad bipartisan support and, again, with over 300 votes. That does not happen often in the House of Representatives these days. It passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee with bipartisan support. It did not even have to have a hearing. Yet the majority leader has not allowed this bill to come to the floor for a vote. I urge him to do that.
I am talking about H.R. 872. What is that? That is the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011. How could anybody be opposed to that? It has been pending before the Senate for 17 months. That is long enough. That is certainly long overdue. This bill was placed on the Senate Calendar on June 21 in 2011. We need to pass this bill. We need to debate it very quickly and pass this bill. It is a short bill but it is very critical to address a court decision that endangers the public health and places additional paperwork burdens on States that are facing very difficult budget times.
Let me be clear. This is a pesticide safety bill, pesticides that are used to protect our crops and to protect our public safety. I am not saying, nobody is saying, nobody ever will say, pesticides should never be regulated. I just do not think it needs to be done twice. H.R. 872 does not alter pesticide regulation. Pesticide applications are subject to the terms that are printed on a product label as approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. It is against the law to apply pesticides in a manner that does not comply with the EPA's approval.
Last December, 25 of our colleagues wrote to our majority leader and our Republican leader requesting an open debate on H.R. 872, a bipartisan bill. I ask unanimous consent to have a copy of the letter printed in the Record.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
(See exhibit 1.)
Mr. ROBERTS. Despite bipartisan requests for consideration, the bill failed to be considered before regulatory requirements went into effect last year. We are already seeing costs to States, to communities, and to businesses that total up millions of dollars. Regulations now in effect are duplicative--a Senate word, a 35-cent word. That means we do not need it. We already have a bill in place. We already have regulation in place. This regulation requires businesses to undertake what amounts to a paperwork exercise. These requirements can slow responses to real public health crises such as West Nile virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report over 5,000 cases of West Nile virus this year and sadly over 230 deaths. That is not right. Pesticide applications are currently and should continue to be regulated under FIFRA, the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. This bill does what all of our constituents are telling us to do and that is to protect human health and eliminate duplicative, unnecessary regulatory actions.
The additional paperwork and permitting processes that States and pesticide applicators must undertake provide no additional environmental protection, zip, zero. It is just additional environmental review. The EPA estimates that approximately 365,000 pesticide applicators will need permits to cover about 5.6 million applications per year. Public health officials, farmers, other pesticide applicators under this regulatory impact would not be facing these requirements if the administration had chosen to vigorously defend its longstanding policy that the protections under the Federal pesticide law were sufficient to protect the environment.
Again, estimates suggest this duplicative regulation will require 365,000 individuals--a requirement that will cost $50 million and require 1 million hours per year to implement--just to fill out the paperwork. Bottom line, it will not add any environmental protection. This layer of redtape will place a huge financial burden on the shoulders of cities, of counties, farm families all across the country as well as State governments responsible for enforcement while at the same time facing dire budget situations.
Beyond agency enforcement, they will also now be exposed to the threat of litigation under the clean water law's citizen suit provisions. I think you have the real key as to where this bill was headed. Some of you might say there are special exemptions for public health emergencies, but environmental groups are challenging emergency actions taken this summer to address the mosquito-borne illnesses such as eastern equine encephalitis--not something to take an action against if you are faced with one of these kinds of threats. Yet we have not been able to move H.R. 872, to come up for a vote despite clear bipartisan support.
It seems to me Congress must act to end this regulatory duplication and clarify that they do not need this additional burden when they are trying to prioritize staffing and resources.
I ask my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill to protect human health and put an end to this very costly regulation. With regard to the bill again, it is 872, passed the House by over 300 votes, bipartisan support in the Agriculture Committee, didn't even have to have a hearing. Let's move this bill. It is something we can do. It makes sense.
Washington, DC, December 8, 2011.
Hon. HARRY REID,
Senate Majority Leader, The Capitol, Washington, DC.
Hon. MITCH MCCONNELL,
Senate Minority Leader, The Capitol, Washington, DC.
DEAR SENATORS REID AND MCCONNELL: We request your leadership in helping to resolve the following issue at the earliest possible opportunity.
As you are aware, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized its Pesticide General Permit (PGP) under the Clean Water Act (CWA), pursuant to a ruling by the Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in National Cotton Council v. EPA. Under this new permitting system, certain pesticide applicators will be required to meet PGP or other permitting requirements in addition to regulation under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
On March 31, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2011, which would address National Cotton Council v. EPA. This legislation then passed the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry on June 21 by voice vote.
We are aware that efforts had been made to come to a bipartisan resolution before these new permitting requirements went into effect. However, we believe there is still an opportunity to resolve this matter in a way that will protect the environment while avoiding undue costs on rural communities and municipalities nationwide. Thus, it is our sincere hope that you will allot floor time for the Senate to have a full, open debate on this matter.
While we recognize that many important legislative items vie for limited floor time, this is a rare opportunity to demonstrate to the American public that Democrats and Republicans are capable of working together to address important issues.
Mike Crapo, Kay Hagan, Richard Burr, Marco Rubio, David Vitter, James Risch, John Boozman, Mike Johanns, Roy Blunt, Rob Portman, Richard Lugar, Mary Landrieu, Kent Conrad, Tom Carper, Chris Coons, Ben Nelson, Max Baucus, Claire McCaskill, Tim Johnson, Amy Klobuchar, John Hoeven, John Thune, Orrin Hatch, Lamar Alexander, Joe Manchin.