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Daily News Blog

16
May

Oregon Officials Finalize Restrictions on Bayer’s Tree-Killing Herbicide, Stop Short of a Full Ban

© Ryan Brennecke/The Bend Bulletin

(Beyond Pesticides, May 16, 2019)  Use of the tree-killing herbicide aminocyclopyrachlor (ACP) is now restricted in Oregon, according to rulemaking finalized last week by the state’s department of agriculture (ODA). While an important step in the right direction, many environmentalists are perplexed by the state’s decision not to proceed with a ban on all uses of the inherently toxic chemical, which has killed thousands of old-growth pine trees along state scenic highways. Over five thousand comments from Oregonians and concerned individuals across the country urged ODA to scrap its convoluted proposed rule and simply eliminate the chemical from state commerce.

While advocates will continue to urge ODA to completely eliminate ACP use, the current restrictions did not come without a fight. Public meetings were attended by representatives from the chemical’s manufacturer, Bayer. The company strongly opposed any restrictions on its product, and acted to delay the original implementation date for ODA’s rule.

Oregon had intended to finalize the rule in late March. “We were pretty much set to file the final paperwork,” said Oregon pesticide program manager Rose Kachadoorian to The Bulletin. But through the work of its corporate lawyers, Bayer was able to track down an arcane Oregon law that allowed the company to delay implementation for 90 days. Bayer’s sought, in a last-ditch effort, to reverse or weaken the initial proposed rules. Although ultimately unsuccessful, the company’s efforts had the effect of permitting ACP use during the 90 day period, during which a currently unknown amount of the chemical may have been applied.

The first-in-the-country restriction on tree-killing ACP has garnered the attention of other states. “This certainly could set a precedent; other states would have to look at their authority to regulate the use beyond the federal requirements,” said Dale Mitchell of ODA’s pesticide program. According to advocates, while ODA’s approach is laudable, other states would be better served by completely banning ACP, eliminating any possibility it will continue to destroy old-growth forests.

ODA’s final rule prohibits ACP from being sprayed in natural and restoration areas, along the inner and outer banks of ditches and canals, and on rights-of-way. However, the rule leaves in place the ability to spray the chemical in areas that “do not exceed more than 5% of an acre” once a year, in order to control state or county-listed noxious weeds. This is slightly different than ODA’s initial proposed rule, which indicated that only “spot treatments” could occur, and contained the statement that “no individual treatment area many exceed nine square feet.”

Advocates calling for a ban are concerned that any continued use of ACP will result in ongoing impacts similar to those that led to multi-million dollar lawsuits against Dupont, when it produced the herbicide under the brand name Imprelis.

Roadside right of way management doesn’t need to rely on any toxic synthetic herbicide use in the first place, given the availability, and economic viability, of alternative practices. As Beyond Pesticides has documented, planting native vegetation, and using mechanical, biological, and other nontoxic vegetation control methods are effective solutions. Rather than sending a crew to spray a pesticide, weed whackers and other machinery can address problem vegetation. Some regions have enlisted the help of goat herds, which can clear noxious weeds at the same time as they improve soil health, preserve ground and surface water from contamination, and eliminate any chance of herbicide resistance. Recently in Maine, utility company Central Maine Power, which maintains a corridor of 53 miles of right-of-way, announced it would not be using insecticides and herbicides in its maintenance.

Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has become increasingly antagonistic to states taking action to restrict federally registered pesticides. But in light of unique environmental conditions within states, officials have a duty to align regulations in a way that best protects the environment for their resident’s health, enjoyment, and economic well-being. For more information about alternatives to roadside pesticide spraying, see Beyond Pesticides article, The Right Way to Vegetation Management.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Oregon Department of Agriculture, Oregon Public Broadcasting

 

 

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