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DPR announces air quality initiative, pledges to meet goals

The California Department of Pesticide Regulation recently launched a comprehensive pesticide initiative to improve air quality statewide. The initiative — which targets air toxins and smog-producing chemicals from pesticide emissions—will achieve state air quality goals by 2008 and set a national standard.

”For years, there have been complaints that we dragged our feet as air quality declined,” said DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam. “That is history. This Administration is committed to cleaning up our air, and DPR will do its part to achieve that goal. The challenges are difficult, but if government and industry work together, we will help our environment, enhance our economy, and create a model pesticide air program for the nation.” Warmerdam said the air initiative focuses on four areas:

• Reducing emissions from fumigants, which currently account for about one-fourth of all pesticide pounds applied annually;

• Reformulating other pesticide products to reduce emissions and risks;

• Promoting new, more environmentally-friendly technologies, and—Developing strategic pest management partnerships in concert with industry.

DPR’s four-point air plan goes beyond a recent court ruling. The initiative addresses volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – a contributor to smog—in addition to a renewed commitment to pest management alternatives and research. DPR also will continue working toward air quality goals for pesticides under the State Implementation Plan (SIP), as required by the federal Clean Air Act.

A public workshop on the initiative will be scheduled in August at a special meeting of DPR’s Pest Management Advisory Committee.

Fumigant reductions key

Warmerdam pointed to fumigant emission reductions as the key part of the plan. “DPR fumigant regulations are already a model for the nation,” said Warmerdam. Under the air initiative, DPR will incorporate VOC reductions into regulation of all fumigants. The Department will also seek a state-federal partnership to reduce fumigant emissions, said Warmerdam. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is now considering new federal rules on several fumigants. will call upon EPA to join us and include VOC reductions as part of those restrictions.”

DPR’s timetable calls for review of fumigant restrictions and introduction of regulatory action by the end of 2007, with some changes in local use guidelines this year.

VOC emissions under scrutiny

Meanwhile, action has already begun on VOC reductions in other pesticide products. DPR announced cancellation of nearly 100 products in April after manufacturers failed to submit VOC data (). Since then, registrants for about two-thirds of those products have contacted DPR to resolve their non-compliance. More than 500 other products had already complied before DPR sent out its cancellation notice.

DPR is currently analyzing information from a second VOC notice that requires registrants to submit plans to reformulate more than 700 products to reduce emissions.

By the end of this year, DPR expects to complete its VOC reformulation review and start the regulatory clock on removing high-VOC products from the market.

Harnessing new technology

DPR has arranged use of a $30,000 “smart sprayer” to demonstrate new technology at grower group field days. The device reduces pesticide use from 25 to 40 percent. (See photo link, caption below.) The sprayer, which resembles a rocket engine on wheels, features an onboard computer that controls ultrasonic sensors.

The “smart sprayer” automatically directs a measured amount of chemical on target vegetation, avoiding excess spray that could harm water and air quality. Reduced use also translates to cost savings for growers. DPR is working with the University of California and commodity groups to help popularize new technologies.

Strategic partnerships

Finally, strategic partnerships will lay the foundation for future improvements in air quality, said Director Warmerdam. Some California agricultural groups are already making voluntary efforts to reduce VOC and air emissions. For example, U.S. EPA recently presented an award to the California Strawberry Commission on its efforts to reduce methyl bromide emissions. (See .) The commission shared its latest plans to reduce fumigant emissions at a DPR Pest Management Advisory Committee meeting this month.

”DPR has a long history of building strategic partnerships with progressive members of industry, and we intend to emphasize public-private cooperation in our air initiative,” said Warmerdam.

”Taking the long view, our ability to synergize the power of free enterprise with progressive public policy may be DPR’s most important contribution to the Governor’s Climate Change Initiative,” she added. A recent report to the Governor by the California Environmental Protection Agency calls for a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020.

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