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By Anthony Adragna
Jan. 20 — The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee advanced the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2015 (S. 659) onto potential floor consideration Jan. 20 by a 12-8 vote after adding a provision that would eliminate the need for a federal permit to spray pesticides near rivers and streams.
Some Democrats, including the committee's ranking member Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), warned adding the amendment to the measure would further imperil the bill's chances on the floor. The provision, offered by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), is the text of the Sensible Environmental Protection Act (S. 1500).
“You're loading [the bill] up with lead in the water, with lead from guns and national security threats,” Boxer said. “I'm going to do everything in my power, stand on my feet, to stop it unless we can come to some sort of agreement to stop some of this stuff.”
Concerns have previously been raised over other provisions in the bill that would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from ever regulating lead bullets or tackle under the Toxic Substances Control Act and that would prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from banning guns on certain federal lands.
Policy riders have repeatedly derailed action on previous iterations of the sportsmen's legislation. This version, offered by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), includes popular provisions reauthorizing the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through 2019 and reauthorizing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which protects wetlands critical to migratory birds, through 2019 (52 DEN A-18, 3/18/15).
By far, the most heated exchange of the hearing concerned the pesticides provision. Democrats called it an “amendment in search of a problem” and warned changing the permitting requirements could endanger human health and the environment.
“This is terrible that the environment committee would be doing this,” Boxer said. “What is this, the pollution committee?”
The amendment would amend the Clean Water Act requirement for permits for pesticides or the residue of pesticides that get into “navigable waters” so long as the pesticides were not used in violation of the separate permitting regime of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide or Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
Identical stand-alone legislation passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in August 2015, though it has yet to receive floor consideration. S. 1500 has 11 Republican and 5 Democratic co-sponsors (151 DEN A-8, 8/6/15).
Crapo called the current permitting requirements “just another layer of unnecessary regulation” and said he had heard complaints from around the country.
“If my colleagues are not hearing about it, then I don't know what stakeholders they're listening to,” the Idaho Republican said. “It's becoming a huge problem around the country.”
Among the other amendments considered was one from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) that would delist the gray wolf in Wyoming and the Great Lakes. That measure passed by voice vote.
Committee members voted down amendments from Boxer and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that would have removed language barring restrictions on guns on certain federal lands and prohibiting any action to regulate lead ammunition under TSCA.
“We've been trying to get this bill done for a long time,” Boxer said. “But, at the end of the day, there are always poison pills on it and it makes it impossible.”
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