House Bill Would Allow More Pesticide Spraying Over Water Bodies
A bill recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives would make it easier for agricultural businesses, farmers and industry to spray potentially dangerous pesticides directly over bodies of water.
The bill, H.R. 953, passed the house last week by a vote of 256 to 165. Only one Republican voted against the bill, and 25 Democrats voted for it. The bill seeks to reverse a 2009 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which required permits under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System for the use of pesticide near water.
The permits are intended to control pollution over protected waters, which environmentalists and consumer protection groups say are necessary to prevent water contamination, fish kills and other ecological side effects. Those supporting H.R. 953, say the permits are redundant and expensive, costing up to $50,000 per permit.
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The measure has gained steam in the face of concerns over the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness that has hit South America, Central America and has made inroads into Florida as well. The virus can cause severe and fatal birth defects.
The Zika virus first gained national attention in January 2016, as international medical reports revealed Zika’s link to birth defects and other birth abnormalities to infants born of Zika infected mothers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began urging pregnant women to postpone trips to Zika affected areas in South America and other locations. However, the Zika virus quickly spread across the globe, affecting women in the U.S. and prompting the World Health Organization to issues a global health emergency. The declaration called for more research and funding to find vaccines and treatment for the virus.
Spraying to control Zika-infected mosquitos would requiring spraying over water. However, it is unclear whether, even with the concerns over Zika, the bill can pass through the Senate.
Most Democrats have said the bill is yet another attempt to roll back environmental protections, sacrificing consumer safety to allow industry to operate unfettered.
The bill has made it to the Senate at least two times before, in 2011 and last year, where Democrats were able to place holds on it that killed it. Given the heavily political agenda and backed up confirmation for numerous administration appointees, the bill’s chances of getting any further this year appear slim.
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