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National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Pesticide Permitting-Program History

August 13, 2003

EPA Publishes Interim Statement and Guidance and Requests Comments

EPA issued an interim statement and guidance on July 11, 2003 to resolve issues pertaining to pesticides regulated under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that applies to waters of the United States. On August 13, 2003, EPA published an interim statement and guidance and solicited public comments before determining a final Agency position.

February 1, 2005

EPA Publishes Interpretive Statement and Proposed Rulemaking

Based on EPA’s consideration of public comments on the Interim Statement and Guidance, on February 1, 2005, EPA published in the Federal Register an interpretive statement and proposed revisions to the NPDES regulations to incorporate the substance of the interpretive statement.

January 26, 2007

EPA Publishes Final Rule on Aquatic Pesticides

On November 27, 2006, EPA issued a final rule clarifying two specific circumstances in which a Clean Water Act (CWA) NPDES permit is not required for discharges from the application of pesticides to or around water:

  1. Pesticides are applied to control pests in the water.
  2. Pesticides are applied to control pests that are present over or near water, where a portion of the pesticides will unavoidably be deposited to the water to target the pests.
This rule became effective on January 26, 2007. It is consistent with EPA's past operating approach in which pesticides legally registered under FIFRA for application to or near aquatic environments, and legally applied to control pests at those sites, are not subject to NPDES permit requirements.

January 19, 2007

Industry and Environmental Groups Challenge the November 2006 Rule

EPA received petitions for review of the Aquatic Pesticides rule from both environmental and industry groups. The case, National Cotton Council, et al, v. EPA, was assigned to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.


January 7, 2009

Court Issues Decision, Vacates November 2006 Rule

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held in National Cotton Council, et al, v. EPA, that the final rule was not a reasonable interpretation of the CWA and vacated the rule. Reversing EPA's November 2006 Aquatics Pesticides rule, the Sixth Circuit held that CWA permits are required for all biological pesticide applications and chemical pesticide applications that leave a residue in water when such applications are made in or over, including near, waters of the U.S. Irrigation return flows and agricultural runoff continue to not require NPDES permits as they are specifically exempted from such under the CWA. Parties had until April 9, 2009 to seek rehearing.

April 9, 2009

EPA Requests Stay; Industry Requests Rehearing

The Department of Justice (DOJ) opted not to seek rehearing in National Cotton Council, et al, v. EPA and filed a motion to stay issuance of the Court's mandate for two years. This decision would provide EPA time to develop, propose, and issue a final NPDES general permit for pesticide applications, for states to develop similar permits for these types of discharges, and to provide outreach and education to the regulated community. EPA worked closely with state water permitting programs, the regulated community, and environmental organizations to develop a general permit that is protective of the environment and public health.


June 8, 2009

Court Grants EPA Two-Year Stay

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted EPA a two-year stay of the mandate (until April 9, 2011) in National Cotton Council et al v. EPA.

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February 22, 2010

Court Denies Industry Request for Rehearing

The Supreme Court declined industry's request to review the Sixth Circuit's decision in National Cotton Council, et al. v. EPA.


June 2, 2010

EPA Proposes Pesticide General Permit

EPA announced the public availability of a draft NPDES permit for point source discharges from the application of pesticides to waters of the U.S. This permit is also known as the Pesticide General Permit (PGP). The PGP provides coverage for discharges where EPA is the NPDES permitting authority. States authorized to administer the NPDES permitting program for pesticide discharges issue their own NPDES permits.

EPA accepted public comments on its PGP for 45 days (through July 19, 2010). In addition, the Agency held three public meetings and a public hearing during the public comment period to present the draft PGP and the basis for its requirements, and to answer questions concerning the PGP and how to submit comments.

March 3, 2011

EPA Requests Extension on Stay

EPA requested an extension to allow more time for pesticide operators to obtain permits for pesticide discharges into U.S. waters. EPA requested the deadline be extended from April 9, 2011 to October 31, 2011.

The extension request allows sufficient time for EPA to engage in Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation and complete the development of an electronic database to streamline requests for coverage under the Agency’s general permit. It also allows time for authorized states to finish developing state permits and permitting authorities to provide additional stakeholder outreach on pesticide permit requirements.


March 28, 2011

Court Grants Extension until October 31, 2011

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit granted EPA's request for an extension to allow more time for pesticide operators to obtain permits for pesticide discharges into U.S. waters. The court's decision extends the deadline for required permits from April 9, 2011 to October 31, 2011.


April 1, 2011

EPA Posts Draft Final Pesticide General Permit on Website

EPA posted a pre-publication version of its draft final pesticide general permit for discharges of pesticide applications to U.S. waters. This draft final permit is not considered a “final agency action,” and the Agency did not solicit public comment on this draft. This draft provided an updated draft of the final permit to assist states in developing their own permits and for the regulated community to become familiar with the permit’s requirements before the court’s decision took effect. This reflects EPA’s commitment to transparency and responding to the needs of stakeholders. The pre-publication version of the draft final pesticide general permit addressed comments from interagency review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
This version of the draft final permit does not contain any additional or revised conditions that may result from ongoing ESA consultation. Since states are not generally required to perform ESA consultation to issue their permits, this preview of the draft final permit provides states with a complete picture of EPA’s “pre-ESA consultation” permit requirements that may be used to develop state permits.

July 25, 2011

EPA Sought Public Comments on NMFS Draft Reasonable and Prudent Alternative

Consistent with section 7 of the ESA, EPA prepared a Biological Evaluation (BE) to assess whether issuance of the PGP may jeopardize the continued existence of endangered or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat that has been designated for such species. EPA submitted it’s BE to both the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on July 30, 2010.

NMFS determined that the PGP, as drafted, was likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a number of species and to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat absent implementation of a Reasonable and Prudent Alternative (RPA) which NMFS detailed in its draft Biological Opinion (BiOp). EPA sought public comment on the RPA in the draft BiOp to better assess the appropriateness of the proposed RPA (30-day comment period ended on July 25, 2011). The draft PGP BE and draft Biological Opinion are included as part of the EPA on-line docket for the PGP. The Docket number is EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0257.


October 31, 2011

EPA Publishes Pesticide General Permit (PGP)

On October 31, 2011, the EPA’s issued its final Pesticide General Permit (PGP) to cover point source discharges to waters of the U.S. from pesticide applications in the geographic areas where the EPA is the NPDES permitting authority.


October 31, 2012

Alaska Administers Permits for Pesticide Discharges

Alaska became the NPDES permitting authority for pesticide discharges except Indian Country lands, for which the EPA remained the permitting authority. Permittees in Alaska who were previously covered under the EPA’s 2011 PGP will continue to be covered automatically through this transfer. If these permittees are required to file annual reports, report for discharges that occurred in 2012 must be filed with the EPA. New permittees must seek coverage under the state permit.


December 20, 2012

Oklahoma Administers Permits for Pesticide Discharges

Oklahoma became the NPDES permitting authority for pesticide discharges except Indian Country lands, for which the EPA remained the permitting authority. Permittees in Oklahoma who were previously covered under the EPA’s 2011 PGP continued to be covered automatically through this transfer. If these permittees are required to file annual reports, report for discharges that occurred in 2012 must be filed with the EPA. New permittees must seek coverage under the state permit.


June 21, 2013

Final Rule to Remove NPDES Pesticides Exemption

EPA finalized a rule to remove language from its NPDES regulations which exempted pesticide operators from needing a permit for discharging pesticides to waters of the U.S. This action was in response to a 2009 decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in National Cotton Council, et al, v. EPA that vacated the EPA’s 2006 rule that NPDES permits would not be required for these activities. In response to the Court’s decision, the EPA issued its Pesticide General Permit to offer coverage for pesticide operators on October 31, 2011. The EPA subsequently amended the regulations as a procedural matter.

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