(Beyond Pesticides, August 31, 2006)
A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a pesticide rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2004, saying that the regulation does not violate the Clean Air Act even though it may conflict with an international environmental treaty signed by the U.S. that phases out the use of the methyl bromide, an ozone-depleting and cancer-causing agricultural fumigant. The ruling came after the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) sued EPA in 2005, arguing that the agency permitted chemical companies to boost supplies of methyl bromide instead of phasing out the contentious pesticide as outlined in the Montreal Protocol (See Daily News Story 1/4/05).
“EPA is pleased with the court’s decision. EPA and the Bush Administration remain committed to finishing the job of restoring and protecting the ozone layer, protecting public health and meeting critical needs of American farmers as they make the transition to methyl bromide alternatives,” an agency spokesperson said.
In the ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said that the NRDC had the legal right to have its case considered, but maintained that EPA didn’t break the December 2004 law, which allowed for a 2 million pound increase in the use of methyl bromide in 2005 alone (See Daily News Story 12/17/04).
The NRDC in its lawsuit had argued that EPA’s move violated both the Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol, an international environmental treaty on ozone. But the court, in a unanimous decision, said that an international treaty could not be considered a federal “law” and as such, was not enforceable in federal court.
The Montreal Protocol, signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and supported by subsequent U.S. presidents from both political parties, is intended to protect the ozone layer, which shields us from harmful cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation that increases risks of skin cancer, cataracts and immune disease. In addition to being a potent ozone-depleter, methyl bromide also causes prostate cancer in agricultural workers and others who are directly exposed, according to the National Cancer Institute.
TAKE ACTION: Write President Bush in the White House and insist that the U.S. comply with the Montreal Protocol and begin implementing alternatives to methyl bromide.