August 29, 2006

Appeals court says EPA pesticide rule legal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Industry and U.S. environmental
officials said on Tuesday that a new federal appeals court
decision affirms that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
did not break clean air laws when it let chemical companies
boost supplies of the contentious pesticide methyl bromide.

"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.

Methyl bromide is considered an effective pesticide and is
used on crops as varied as cut flowers, strawberries and
tomatoes. But it also depletes the ozone layer high above the
earth which protects the earth from harmful amounts of
ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Damage to the ozone layer
results in increased rates of skin cancer and eye cataracts.

Chemical companies say NRDC has grossly exaggerated the
cancer risk of the pesticide and EPA was justified in expanding
how much of the product could be used during the international
phase-out process.

"We're pleased to see the court has apparently sided with
our argument," said David McAllister, manager of product issues
for Great Lakes Chemical Corp. a division of the
Connecticut-based specialty chemical company Chemtura Corp.

In its latest look at the issue, the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the D.C. Circuit said that the Natural Resources Defense
Council had the legal right to be considered, a reversal of an
earlier ruling. However the court also ruled that NRDC's
argument that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's late
December 2004 action broke the law was wrong. NRDC argued in
its lawsuit against EPA that the agency's move violated both
the Clean Air Act and an international environmental treaty on
ozone called the Montreal Protocol.

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.

NRDC could be reached for comment on the ruling.