Here’s an update to a post I wrote last night regarding North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Douglas Goehring. Thanks to Valerie Barbie-Bluemle for pointing this out to me this morning. You can read yesterday’s post by going here.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General released its report Monday that tells why it will resume federal inspections of pesticides in North Dakota. It is a short report — take less than five minutes to read — but it is a damning one for North Dakota and casts our state in a very bad light in the eyes of the nation.
On Monday, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Douglas Goehring told the Forum News Service’s Johnathan Knutson that state Agriculture Department officials are enforcing state and federal pesticide requirements, and public safety isn’t at risk, and that the Department will continue to implement state and federal law.
Well, here’s what the Inspector General’s office had to say about that:
“EPA Region 8 staff stated that FIFRA inspections have not been conducted because North Dakota officials do not want federal inspections conducted in their state. The failure to conduct inspections increases the risk that pesticides are not in compliance with federal law, which could result in potential risks from toxics being undetected and adverse human health and environmental impacts occurring.”
“Since 2011, EPA Region 8 has also failed to conduct inspections of pesticides imported into North Dakota. Since that time, approximately 1,300 pesticide imports to the United States have come through North Dakota, and none have been inspected. EPA Region 8’s failure to inspect imported pesticides to ensure compliance with federal law creates a potential risk not only for residents in North Dakota but residents in other states and locations in the United States.”
I’m going to just post relevant excerpts from the Inspector General’s report here. But let me point out a couple of things in summary that I did not know yesterday when I wrote my initial story.
The reason the EPA requires federal inspections here is that we have pesticides coming into North Dakota from Canada. Canada has different pesticide regulations than we do, so we need to be sure pesticides coming from there meet our federal requirements for safety. The EPA provides funding to North Dakota to conduct these inspections for them. I don’t know how much we get each year — Douglas would know that. The Inspector General’s report says that every state must have at least one federally ertified inspector. North Dakota has not had one since 2013. You will note that the EPA has not yet cut off our funding, in spite of the fact we do not have anyone certified here. I suspect that is a matter of time. Probably a short time, since we’ve been busted now.
Here are some relevant excerpts from the report. You can read the whole thing by going here.
“The last FIFRA import inspection conducted by a Region 8 inspector in North Dakota was in 2010. Since 2011, the EPA has received approximately 1,300 notices that pesticides were coming into North Dakota from other countries and none have been inspected, according to the region’s data. EPA Region 8 staff explained that FIFRA import inspections are “inspections of opportunity.” Failure to conduct import inspections increases the risk that pesticide products entering the United States through North Dakota are not in compliance with FIFRA rules for registration, labeling and sampling to verify the compound matches its label. Also, without such inspections, residents in other states and locations in the United States in addition to North Dakota could be at risk.”
“EPA Region 8 staff stated that producer establishment and import inspections have not been conducted in North Dakota because North Dakota officials do not want federal inspections conducted in their state. The North Dakota Director of the Pesticides and Fertilizer Division asserted that its state producer establishment inspections were sufficient to ensure FIFRA compliance, and that Region 8 officials were also in agreement. However, EPA Region 8 has the responsibility to conduct FIFRA producer establishment and import inspections in all of Region 8’s states, including North Dakota. The state’s preference that federal inspections not be carried out in North Dakota should not be accepted by Region 8.”
“North Dakota does not currently have a federal-credentialed state inspector and has not had one since the inspector with credentials retired in 2013. A 2013 EPA memorandum on this issue states, “due to the interstate nature of FIFRA, it would be inefficient to have a state-by-state, patchwork approach to inspection authorities and especially detrimental should there be an exigent need for federal inspection. Therefore, all State Lead Agencies must have at least one inspector with a federal credential.” The same 2013 memorandum regarding the use of credentials by state inspectors says that “the failure to have at least one inspector with a federal credential may affect inspection-related funding under a cooperative agreement.” ” EPA Region 8 has not reduced funding under the Region 8 cooperative agreement with North Dakota since the position’s vacancy in 2013.”
This is another black eye for North Dakota. At a time when we are being criticized all across the country for our lax regulation of the oil industry, in the wake of huge fireball explosions when tanker trains are involved in derailments, we don’t need more of this kind of publicity. We need to get in compliance, both in federal pesticide inspection and in oil train safety. It is getting to be embarrassing to be from North Dakota.
Shame on our elected officials.