August 29, 2006

US 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.