The House passed legislation Sept. 14 renewing the Environmental Protection Agency's authority to collect registration and annual maintenance fees from pesticide registrants, clearing the measure for the president's signature.
The Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act of 2012 (S. 3552), which passed without objection, would allow the agency to collect fees through fiscal year 2017 and set deadlines for the Office of Pesticide Programs to make regulatory decisions on pesticide registrations. The Senate passed the bill, dubbed PRIA-3,on Sept. 13 by unanimous consent.
EPA uses registration and maintenance fees to fund OPP operations, including the agency's registration reviews of every pesticide active ingredient. Pesticide registrants support the PRIA framework because of the certainty offered by timeframes for regulatory decisions, while environmental groups are supportive of EPA receiving additional funding to review the safety of new and previously registered pesticides.
PRIA, originally enacted in 2003 and reenacted in 2008, was scheduled to expire Sept. 30 if Congress had not taken action. The reauthorization bill is based on a proposal developed by a coalition of crop protection, environmental, and worker safety groups, including CropLife America, the Consumer Specialty Products Association, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Phil Klein, executive vice president for legislative and public affairs as CSPA, told BNA Sept. 14 that the bill would not have made it through Congress without the effort of all members of the PRIA coalition. He singled out the contributions of NRDC and Farmworker Justice in crafting the proposal and getting the bill through.
Klein described PRIA as a “win-win-win” because EPA receives long-term stable funding, industry gets judicial-enforceable timeframes for regulatory decisions, and the non-governmental organizations approve of “significant” maintenance fee dollars used for registration reviews and funding for farmworker protection.
Klein was unable to offer any information on when the president would sign the bill, but he said the trade groups need the reauthorization bill signed into law before Sept. 30.
The legislation would establish a 25 percent discount on the annual maintenance fee for the first product registered by qualified small businesses, a provision requested by members of the House Agriculture Committee earlier this year (36 CRR 437, 4/16/12).
Businesses that hold no more than five pesticide registrations, that employ fewer than 500 employees, and that record an average annual global gross revenue no higher than $10 million over the past three years would be eligible for the new maintenance fee discount.
Additionally, the bill would require EPA to submit a report to the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee on the impact of pesticide maintenance fees on businesses that have 10 or fewer employees and annual global gross revenues below $2 million. That report would be due to Congress no later than Oct. 1, 2016.
Klein said there is “definitely potential” for future versions of PRIA to include an even-larger fee discount for “very small, mom-and-pop businesses.” The report will provide necessary additional information on those very small businesses, most of which are not members of any of the trade associations in the PRIA coalition.
The reauthorization package also would require EPA to set aside $800,000 annually to improve information system capabilities at the Office of Pesticide Programs. The dedicated funding would be used to develop an electronic tracking system for registrations and conditional registrations, a new database containing endangered species assessments considered during registration reviews, and an electronic label submission system.
The legislation also contains a phaseout provision that would allow the agency to collect reduced registration fees in fiscal 2018 and 2019 if the agency's authority is not again extended by Congress. The level of registration service fees payable would be reduced 40 percent below fiscal 2017 levels in fiscal 2018 and 70 percent below fiscal 2017 levels in fiscal 2019.
All other provisions in the bill, including EPA authority to collect annual maintenance fees and the regulatory decision timeframes, are scheduled to expire Sept. 30, 2017.
The legislation contains language ensuring the five-year reauthorization would override a six-month extension of previous PRIA provisions included in a six-month continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 117) passed by the House Sept. 13. The continuing resolution provision was designed to give Congress additional time to pass the full reauthorization bill, which will not be necessary if the president signs S. 3552 into law by Sept. 30.
By Patrick Ambrosio
The Pesticide Registration Improvement Extension Act of 2012 is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112s3552es/pdf/BILLS-112s3552es.pdf.
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