Yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency published a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register (77 FR 20752-20756) establishing a tolerance for residues of methyl bromide in or on cotton, undelinted seed. The establishment of a residue tolerance is necessary because imported undelinted cottonseed needs to be fumigated to eliminate the potential to co-import a number of plant pests that could damage the production of US cotton crops. The import of undelinted cotton seed is necessary because of a shortage of native production in Texas due to the recent drought. Undelinted cotton seed is used as a dairy cattle food supplement.
It is not clear in this NPRM whether the EPA envisions the methyl bromide fumigation of the undelinted cotton seed to take place in the country of origin prior to shipping or in the United States prior to it leaving the Port of Entry. One would typically expect such fumigation to take place prior to being loaded on transport, but the EPA does list US pesticide manufacturers as potentially affected parties in the preamble (77 FR 20753). The addition of §180.124 to 40 CFR Chapter 1 would also seem to allow methyl bromide fumigation of domestically produced undelinted cotton seed.
This NPRM does not address how the establishment of this new tolerance standard will affect the current efforts to phase-out the production and use of methyl bromide in keeping with the requirements of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and Title VI of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. It would seem that the establishment of a new authorized use for methyl bromide would yet again delay that phase-out.
Of course, any further delay in the phase-out of methyl bromide would again call into question the decision made in 2007 by the Department of Homeland Security to remove the toxic inhalation hazard chemical methyl bromide from the list of DHS chemicals of interest (COI) that forms the basis for determining if a facility is a high-risk chemical facility under the CFATS regulations (okay, readers of this blog saw that coming when they read the title of this post). That decision was justified by the phaseout actions being undertaken by the EPA. Once again, I urge ISCD to add methyl bromide back to the list of COI found in Appendix A to 6 CFR Part 27.
Public comments are being solicited on this NPRM. Such comments may be made via the Federal eRulemaking Portal (www.regulations.gov; Docket # EPA-HQ-OPP-2012-0245). Comments should be submitted by June 5th, 2012.