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A bill allowing pesticide manufacturers and users to avoid the Clean Water Act permitting process passed in the Senate Agriculture Committee today.

If passed in the Senate, bill H.R. 872 lets farmers spray pesticides near public waters without having to meet Clean Water Act permitting requirements.

A 2007 EPA rule allowing all pesticides listed in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to be exempted from Clean Water Act permitting requirements was reversed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2009.

The amendment, on its way to the Senate floor, reinstates the exemptions, effectively skirting the legal battles over whether pesticide residue is a chemical waste that can be regulated as a pollutant under the Act.

Growers, ranchers and others have highlighted the regulation as an example of unnecessary federal bureaucracy, while environmentalists supported it as a hedge against over-use of chemicals that may be perilous to aquatic life and to drinking water.

“The Committee sided with the pesticide industry and against our health and the health of our waters by eliminating all Clean Water Act protections of our rivers, lakes and streams against pesticide pollution,” said Natural Resources Defense Council  staff attorney Mae Wu.