WASHINGTON – As many in the pest control industry expected, a new version of the School Environment Protection Act (SEPA), HR 4159, was introduced in Congress.
Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) and 14 cosponsors introduced HR 4159 in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday. If enacted the bill would “amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act to require local educational agencies and schools to implement integrated pest management programs to minimize the use of pesticides in schools and to provide parents, guardians, and employees with notice of the use of pesticides in schools, and for other purposes.”
NPMA Manager of Government Affairs Gene Harrington said the latest SEPA version is not unlike similar versions that have been introduced the past five years in that it “is very bureaucratic and prohibitive, and it places unjustified restrictions on acceptable pest management practices in schools.”
The newest SEPA version includes several provisions problematic to the pest control industry including restrictions on what types of pesticides can be used in schools and notification requirements that slow down pest management professionals’ ability to treat in a timely fashion.
Perhaps the biggest industry concern with federal school pest management legislation, according to Harrington, is that 38 states already have some sort of school pest management law or regulatory requirement in place. “This doesn’t build on what these states have done, but it undermines it. It would require states that have had plans and programs in place for 15 years to move back to square one, which could create chaos and confusion not only among PMPs, but in school districts across the country.”
Throughout the years, NPMA has provided its input regarding what it believes is sensible school IPM, and 2001 NPMA was part of a broad coalition of environmental, public interest and education groups that urged Congress to include the SEPA in the final version of H.R. 1, the Better Education for All Students and Teachers Act (which ultimately did not pass).
While it is doubtful H.R. 4159 will make its way through Congress as a stand-alone bill, it may eventually become attached to another piece of legislation, such as an educational reform bill.
Last year, in anticipation of this bill, NPMA began meeting with congressional representatives and Harrington said the association will “double back” its efforts now that H.R. 4159 has been introduced.