EPA Extends Herbicides' Comment Period

Public Has Extra 45 Days to Comment on Draft Biological Evaluations for Atrazine, Propazine, Simazine

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Environmental Editor
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EPA has extended the public comment period on draft biological evaluations for atrazine, propazine and simazine. (DTN file photo by Nick Scalise)

OMAHA (DTN) -- The EPA has extended the public comment period on the draft biological evaluations for atrazine, propazine and simazine by another 45 days past the Jan. 5, 2021, deadline, the agency announced on Wednesday.

In November 2020, EPA released its draft biological evaluations for atrazine, propazine and simazine for public review and comment.

Biological evaluations are the beginning of EPA's Endangered Species Act consultation review process where the agency determines whether a herbicide may affect one or more listed species and their designated critical habitats.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in September announced interim mitigation measures for atrazine, propazine and simazine.

Atrazine is widely used in agriculture across a range of crops, primarily corn but also sugarcane and sorghum, as well as a smaller amount of use in landscape care.

Specific mitigation measures were outlined in an EPA news release. The new measures are designed to address potential human health and ecological risks.

The agency will require a reduction of the maximum application rate for atrazine and simazine when used on residential turf in order to protect children who crawl or play on treated grass.

EPA added a requirement for irrigation immediately after simazine application to residential turf and required additional personal protective equipment for workers who apply atrazine and simazine.

The agency is finalizing label requirements for all three triazines to include mandatory spray drift control measures, to minimize pesticide drift into non-target areas including water bodies, as well as updating label directions to reduce weed resistance to atrazine.

As part of its routine re-registration review of atrazine, EPA has been releasing draft ecological and human health risk assessments for public comment.

New label language will prohibit spraying during a temperature inversion, set a 15-mph wind speed restriction for aerial and ground applications, as well as add specific boom and nozzle requirements.

The EPA also proposed ending one of two ongoing atrazine water-monitoring programs started in 2004.

Environmental groups have lobbied for atrazine to be banned entirely, based on concerns about human health risks and environmental problems, particularly concerning water quality.

Wheeler announced the measures at a September agriculture roundtable in Springfield, Missouri, that included farmers and state and federal lawmakers.

"Today's decision is another example of the Trump administration taking action in support of America's farmers -- one of our strongest allies in our mission to protect public health and the environment," Wheeler said in a news release.

"The benefits of atrazine in agriculture are high, so these new protections give our nation's farmers more clarity and certainty concerning proper use."

EPA will next complete draft biological evaluations for atrazine.

Those evaluations are the first step in the interagency consultation process to protect listed species and their habitats in the Endangered Species Act. Final endangered species determinations are expected to be completed in 2021.

Public comments may be filed here: https://www.regulations.gov/….

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley

Todd Neeley
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