Today the EPA published a final rule in the Federal Register (80 FR 61985-61993) allocating the critical use exemptions for methyl bromide under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer for 2016. This will probably be the last CUE rule that provides for substantial manufacture of methyl bromide as it will be the last year that methyl bromide will be authorized for use as a fumigant in pre-planting for strawberries in California.
In the preamble to this rule the EPA reiterates what I covered in my last blog posting on methyl bromide and the Montreal protocol; California strawberry farmers will have this last year to complete their transition to the use of chloropicrin for pre-plant fumigation. To emphasize this transition, the EPA set a separate CUE for pre-plant use and then prohibited the transfer of any of that pre-plant methyl bromide to subsequent years. Any of the pre-plant authorization that remains after the end of 2016 will have to be destroyed.
The EPA expects that the fumigation of cured hams with methyl bromide will continue at least through 2017. The amounts allocated for production and use reflect this fact and expect that there will be some carryover use of methyl bromide for cured ham use. Methyl bromide produced for pre-plant fumigation will not be allowed to be carried over for this use.
The EPA in this final rule is authorizing the production of 138,592-lbs of methyl bromide for pre-planting fumigation. In comparison it is authorizing the production of only 1,939-lbs for used in post-planting fumigation (cured hams).
The EPA is not including any ‘emergency’ uses of methyl bromide like those that have been authorized by the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) (here, here and here). EPA had asked for comments about such potential uses in the notice of proposed rulemaking for this rule, but it received no responses.