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For ignoring sound science

Democratic lawmakers reprimand EPA U.S. REPS. Charles Stenholm, D-Texas, and Marion Berry, D-Ark., don't mince words about the Environmental Protection Agency.

"The vice president of the United States instructed the EPA and USDA to use common sense and sound science to make decisions on pesticide regulations," Stenholm said in an interview with Southwest Farm Press recently.

"The instructions of Vice President Al Gore has had no effect to get the EPA to do what they are supposed to do," Stenholm said.

"EPA has been told to use common sense and sound science to make decisions on registration and removal of pesticides, " Berry said in a separate interview. "Show us the science and we'll support the decision. EPA has been told to do that, and we've been told that that would happen. It has not happened yet."

Berry said the process of reviewing pesticide and other environmental regulations "should be transparent."

"EPA and USDA are supposed to include everyone affected by their decisions in the evaluation process," Stenholm said. "That means consumers, manufacturers and farmers. They have not done that. Results should be discussed in the sunshine, openly and honestly, so all involved in the debate knows what goes into the safety of our food and fiber supply."

Stenholm said only a "few people in EPA pose obstacles to sound science. They refuse to use common sense but base their decisions on what they think," he said.

Both Stenholm and Berry support the EPA. "We need this agency," Stenholm said. "We have to have them to monitor our environment. We can't be against a safe food supply, clean air and clean water. But I am for using sound science to develop environmental regulations."

Berry says issues other than common sense often motivate decisions.

When New York City faced a mosquito and disease problem, they were quick to approve aerial applications of malathion, he said. "That shows the process is political."

Stenholm said the next step would be legislation demanding that EPA change the way it makes decisions.

"The chances of passing anything before Oct. 6, however, are remote," he said. After Oct. 6, elections will preclude any meaningful legislation.

"But the next Congress has to take up this effort early and often," Stenholm said. "If I'm chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, we will take it up."

If Democrats retake the House of Representatives, Stenholm, as the ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, would be chairman.

If Republicans hold the House, chances are still good that the matter will be addressed. Rep. Larry Combest, also of Texas, is the ranking Republican on the committee, and he and Stenholm, though working on opposite sides of the aisle, work closely together on agricultural issues.

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