Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
04/15/2005 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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CSHB 19(FIN)-PESTICIDE & BROADCAST CHEMICALS CHAIR THOMAS WAGONER announced CSHB 19(FIN) to be up for consideration. REPRESENTATIVE KEVIN MEYER said he was looking for a way to eliminate the state general fund obligation to the State Pesticide Program, which is required by federal law. He also wanted to provide reasonable protections for public health for when pesticides are used throughout the state. The way the program works, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves a pesticide for sale in the United States and then each state has to register the pesticide for sale within the state. The state agency in this case is the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). It is responsible for registering the pesticides and inspecting and enforcing the requirements that EPA puts on the handling and distribution of these chemicals. In Alaska, the program has been paid for with general funds, but in other states the program is paid for by the chemical manufacturers in the form of a fee they pay to the state. When he first contacted the chemical manufacturers, they were not surprised nor did they resist being charged a fee for chemicals that they sell in Alaska. The only thing they requested is that the state doesn't try to fill its fiscal gap on their backs. The department suggested a fee of $85 that is set up on a sliding basis so that chemicals that are used infrequently would be charged less. This fee would make Alaska th the 11 cheapest in the country. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER explained that when pesticides are used in a public place this bill requires that they be applied by a certified applicator. The intent is to target areas where people go in masses and shouldn't have to worry about a recent spraying. The other requirement is that the spraying is noticed something like a "Wet Paint" sign. 4:50:46 PM SENATOR GUESS asked if public schools were included in the definition of public place. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER replied yes; it includes schools and universities. SENATOR GUESS asked if it includes Alaska Native Hospital, but not Providence Hospital. REPRESENTATIVE MEYER responded that he thought she was right. MIKE PAWLOWSKI, staff to Representative Meyer, said he knew Providence and Alaska Regional Hospitals would not be included in this. He said they worked on the definition closely with the DEC. KRISTIN RYAN, Director, Division of Environmental Health, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), said the definition is specific in the proposed legislation, but she would have to look at other statutes regarding a definition for "government office." She hadn't considered government hospitals and since even the Native hospitals are technically run by consortiums, she didn't know if they would be considered a state building. She thought they would be considered federal government buildings. "But, I think our intent here was to cover state government buildings." 4:54:01 PM SENATOR GUESS said if the intent is state buildings, that wouldn't include schools. MS. RYAN responded that schools are covered by existing regulations that already require public notice. SENATOR GUESS asked if government-funded programs not in a government facility, like Headstart, are covered. MS. RYAN interpreted that to not be included. She didn't think the department had the authority to require the federal government to post warnings in their buildings. She would check on that. SENATOR GUESS asked her to check on requirements for municipalities and local government buildings as well. 4:55:18 PM SENATOR SEEKINS asked if licensing of pesticide applicators included spray bottles or people on page 3, line 6. MS. RYAN replied people. SENATOR SEEKINS said he looked at AS 46.03.320(b) and it says the department may provide, by regulation, for the licensing of private applicators and asked about public applicators. "Would they have to have the same standards as a private applicator?" MS. RYAN replied that is existing statute and she could do a temporary waiver for people who couldn't get to the course, but needed to do an emergency application. The department has interpreted the statutes to require commercial applicators to be certified. That means you have to take a test and go through a course that teaches you how to apply the chemicals safely. It's against federal law to ever apply a chemical against the label. The label is the law with pesticides. So, a private applicator is held to that just as much as a commercial applicator. Everyone is supposed to follow the label. 4:57:02 PM SENATOR SEEKINS asked if a Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF) employee spraying down a highway would be subject to licensing and have to pass the same examination. MS. RYAN replied: There's a few things that impact state applications. For one thing, our regulations currently require them to get a permit. We don't require permits for every type of application; we only require a permit for aerial spraying - for spraying over lakes like a fish kill by Fish and Game or if you apply it to state lands. So, DOT and the Railroad have to come to us for permits and if you're familiar with the history at all, that's never been successful. They have applied and not been able to achieve the permit due to public reaction. So, through the permit process, we would require them to make sure they use certified applicators otherwise they aren't using chemicals on state land without a permit. 4:58:26 PM SENATOR SEEKINS said: I've always thought that what was good for the goose was good for the gander and if we were protecting public health and safety and we felt that it was necessary to certify and license this group, then we ought to certify and license all people that do that, not as just a matter of fairness, but a matter of public safety. I'm just trying to see if there are any loopholes for people to jump through here if we pass this legislation based on their status or their employment. MS. RYAN replied that a stipulation of getting permits would be certification. The department wants the pesticides applied correctly. Commercial applicators are defined in regulations as people who make money doing this. 4:59:19 PM SENATOR SEEKINS asked how many fees would be in the $120 range in reference to language about reasonable fees on page 3, line 4. MS. RYAN replied that it's for simplification of accounting. She didn't expect to have a fee for different products. There would be a waiver from the fee if the product hadn't been used before in Alaska, if research is being done on it or if it's experimental. Based on the money we need to generate to support the program, the people left paying the fee would either pay $85, assuming 40 percent don't pay the fee, or if 90 percent pay the fee, it would only be a $55 fee across the board. 5:00:50 PM AL VEZEY, Fairbanks, urged the committee to proceed with caution. Pesticides is an extremely complex subject. It includes wood preservatives, herbicides and numerous other specialty products that improve people's lives. He used the removal of brush from highways so drivers can see moose as an example. He said the state has never successfully permitted a pesticide application on state land as required by state law. "We need to be careful before we take these products away from the public." 5:04:50 PM He said that a majority of registered applicators are public employees who are trying to do their jobs in a responsible manner. They currently pay a fee of $25 to the federal Agricultural Cooperative Extension Service, a division of the Department of Agriculture. He encouraged the committee to develop that relationship further because he thought the federal government would be able to do more if the state showed more support for the program that they are already doing in the state of Alaska. He said the people paying the fee would by and large be public employees and would probably be reimbursed for it by the agency they work for. Then the state would be put back in the position of being asked to fund additional expenses due to having to register with the state. He asked the committee to compare the cost to the public and the harms it would inadvertently cause. MR. VEZEY asked if they are going to require the owner of a large public housing project to go through a registration and public notice process before they implement a program to control rats and mice. Individual apartment owners don't have a chance in the world of managing a rodent problem in a multi-family building. It has to be done on a broad scope basis. Looking at the regulations, we don't really know what will come out of it. Is it going to encourage public safety and public health or just simply discourage the use of pesticide in the consequent deterioration the quality of the environment that we all live in? 5:08:18 PM KEN PERRY, Perry Paratex Pied Piper, said he also represents the Alaska Pesticide Applicators Group, the National Pest Management Association and a group called the Responsible Industry For A Sound Environment. He praised the DEC and its pesticide division, but said while it is sorely under-funded and severely criticized, it has shown remarkable ability in overseeing pesticide usage and the current registration program. He said the bill is well-intentioned, but seriously flawed. It holds no reasonable benefit to the people of our state. I urge you to consider carefully testimony you have and will be hearing sponsored by the tax-free outside supported special interest groups. Please do not forget that these are the same people who are holding not just our small Alaska businesses, but our major business interests, such as ANWR and the gas pipeline. It is, therefore, no surprise that they are now attacking chemical manufacturers whose billions of dollars of research have produced safe and effective products that tens of thousands of your constituents have chosen to purchase over the years - items such as mosquito repellant they put on their bodies or use around their homes and lodges, the flea and tic collars they put on their pets, disinfectants they use to clean their homes and keep their spas and hot tubs safe, the paints they use on their boats, the wood preservatives they use to protect their structures and the agricultural products that our farmers in Delta and the Mat-Su use to need to have available to eek out their livings.... MR. PERRY said this is an anti-business bill and not passing it would send a large message to a large number of major companies that Alaska is business friendly, not just a playground for extremists. 5:13:39 PM VARSHA MATHRANI, Environmental Health Coordinator, Alaska's Community Action on Toxics, asked the committee to consider the long-term affects of their actions. Children are particularly sensitive to negative health effects from exposures to toxic chemicals. Children play closer to the ground with lots of hand to mouth behavior; and their bodies and organs are growing and developing. Many pesticides are known to be associated with adverse effects on the developing brain and nervous system of children. She strongly supported HB 19. ALAN COLTER, Anchorage resident, related how a good friend of his died two years ago due to pesticide use in landscaping. They worked together and used chemicals indiscriminately based on what their boss told them. She died a long slow painful death. He said that many of the chemicals used by the public are very toxic, especially to children and older people. He supported HB 19 that would promote their responsible use. 5:20:26 PM SHABA KURTS, Alaska Pacific University student, asked how the public is supposed to know what is dangerous and what is not. He trusts that the people who apply them will do it to the best of their knowledge, but he felt there should be more regulation, especially when it comes to something that could be dangerous to the public health. 5:22:14 PM COLIN QUENHEARST, Anchorage, supported HB 19. It is valuable for all Alaska residents because it gives them the right to know when pesticides are sprayed so that they can choose to avoid dangerous substances. It is valuable particularly for children as it pertains to marking of playgrounds where pesticides are used. 5:23:50 PM JILL DONALDSON, Alaska Pacific University student, supported HB 19. She has an Associates Degree in Environmental Technology, which includes 30 hours of training with pesticide application, regulation and uses under DEC and the New York State law. This has shown her how potentially dangerous pesticides and broadcast chemicals can be. The state of Alaska can learn what has worked well and what has not worked well in other states. One main concern is that certified applicators hold the majority of responsibility and burdens that are associated with pesticide regulations. However, they agree that proper pesticide application and the necessary precautions associated with application go hand in hand with ideal business tactics. She supported the licensing of all pesticide applicators not only for the safety of the individual, but for the safety of all Alaskan residents. She said it is also important to realize that the average American may be exposed to more hazardous chemicals through household applications rather than industrial applications. "That's why public education is a key factor when controlling the use of pesticides and broadcast chemicals." 5:26:10 PM MS. RYAN commented that the committee heard a mix of comments today and that her division receives complaints on pesticides frequently. It is probably the things she spends the most time on and yet it's probably the smallest program in her division. The four staff in the pesticide program use federal funds; we have primacy for pesticides similar to what we're trying to do with NPDES and we use those federal funds to inspect places that sell pesticides or commercial applicators that use them and make sure they are doing them right. That's what we do. This bill would add a few more responsibilities. We would be looking now at public notice in certain areas and we'd be expanding the certification requirements. And also, then, it gets rid of the general fund that's used to support the program. It's the match with the federal funds...I think, $49,000 is just straight general fund to the program. She didn't want people to be restricted from using new products and expected to waive many fees because of that. Certification to me is the real key. People that know what they're doing is what's going to make the difference. With all toxins, the dose is the poison. Even salt and caffeine are toxic at certain levels. 5:29:08 PM SENATOR SEEKINS asked what keeps someone from bringing in an unregistered pesticide. MS. RYAN replied that that happens all the time and that's what the division's four inspectors look for when they are out in green houses or Fred Meyers. They are making sure that the chemicals for sale on the shelves are registered by EPA and the state. When unregistered chemicals are found, the store is told they can't sell it here and they are issued a stop-sale order. Stores comply easily, because they can return the products to the manufacturer for a refund and there is no penalty at this time. SENATOR SEEKINS asked if an applicator can bring a pesticide in from Washington and apply it with no penalty. MS. RYAN replied that it would be illegal and the department can issue a notice of violation and while the pesticide program does not have administrative penalty or civil fine authority, she related that the Attorney General's office was able to do a sting a couple of years ago. SENATOR GUESS asked who is responsible for the public notification for spraying in a public place under HB 19. MS. RYAN replied that the statute leaves that up to the department to determine through regulation. She assumed that the responsibility for signage would be on the applicator. 5:32:27 PM SENATOR GUESS asked if there is a penalty in regulation for not giving public notice. MS. RYAN replied that it would be a violation of the regulation and the division issues a notice of violation. 5:33:23 PM CHAIR WAGONER asked who does the training. MS. RYAN replied that her staff has a good working relationship with the Cooperative Extension Service, but with this bill there would be an increased demand for training and she has proposed creating a training CD for use by remote communities and people who couldn't get to her office easily. 5:34:37 PM SENATOR GUESS asked DEC and the sponsor to get back to her on the definitions of government office and public facility to clarify the record. 5:35:00 PM SENATOR SEEKINS moved CSHB19 (FIN) from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note. There were no objections and it was so ordered.