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WASHINGTON (AP) – An effort to enact the first federal restrictions on pesticides in public schools has run into last-minute opposition led by members of the House Agriculture Committee.

Rep. Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., said the proposed rules have not been reviewed by appropriate federal agencies and would impose unfunded federal mandates on school districts.

“We’re going to fight this thing tooth and nail,” said Goodlatte, chairman of the House Agriculture oversight subcommittee, which held a hearing Wednesday featuring critics of the pesticide restrictions.

That led Jay Feldman, executive director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, to say the framework he helped draft is now in jeopardy.

“There is no question that this committee is trying to derail this bill and the protection it would provide for children,” Feldman said.

The General Accounting Office reported last year that it could find no credible statistics on how much pesticide is used in the nation’s public schools, how often students are exposed to dangerous chemicals or what the health effects are.

The pest-control industry and anti-pesticide environmentalists settled on the proposed regulations last month after weeks of negotiations brokered by Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J.

The compromise would require that public schools nationwide notify parents about the use of bug-killing chemicals. It would prohibit the use of pesticides in an occupied area of a school and the use of certain pesticides in any area that will be used within 24 hours.

The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Rep. Eva Clayton of North Carolina, said she shares Goodlatte’s concerns that the regulations have not had a full public airing.

George Wichterman of the American Mosquito Control Association testified that the regulations would undermine efforts to prevent mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile Virus and St. Louis Encephalitis.

Mike Vanairsdale, assistant superintendent for the Fulton County School District in Georgia, said the proposed requirements would constitute “a significant administrative burden … with new layers of paperwork.”

But Jay Vroom, president of the American Crop Protection Association, said the regulations are “a reasonable compromise.” And Feldman, who helped negotiate the regulations, said the groups complaining about the compromise chose not to participate in the talks.

“You can’t negotiate with people who don’t want to negotiate,” he said. “The reality is that those who testified today don’t take the concern of pesticide exposure seriously, and as a result, dismiss the legislation as unimportant.”

The pesticide restrictions were added June 19 to the Senate version of this year’s major education bill. They are not in the House version, however, so a Senate-House conference committee will determine their fate.

onthenet

National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides: http://www.beyondpesticides.org

American Crop Protection Association: http://www.acpa.org

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