EPA Gives Stakeholders Little Time for Thoughtful Responses to Atrazine Panel Questions

By Jere White, Executive Director
Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association

Monday, August 30, 2010—Some folks will burn the midnight oil trying to write written responses to EPA’s charge questions for the agency’s September atrazine science advisory panel. The questions were released Friday and comments are due Tuesday.

We have to wonder if the Environmental Protection Agency is being open and transparent in its handling of the Science Advisory Panel (SAP) on Atrazine when it gives stakeholders two working days to respond to complex charge questions for its September 15-17 meetings.

As an interested party in the EPA’s series of atrazine SAPs, we have been waiting for the release of the charge questions which will fuel the discussion at the September panel. We received them on Friday. EPA would like written responses to the question by tomorrow—Tuesday. Looking at the technical questions, it would take a month of Tuesdays to formulate answers to the questions.

Before each SAP, EPA releases a set of charge questions that the public can respond to and submit comments. The September SAP’s topic is: “Reevaluation of the Human Health Effects of Atrazine: Review of Non-cancer Effects and Drinking Water Monitoring Frequency”. That is certainly a mouthful and as one can imagine, the questions are much more detailed.

EPA has presented six multiple part questions that fill nine pages. The technical nature of the questions is great. It is difficult to see how EPA expects to get quality comments on these questions even by September 15, let alone by tomorrow.

The Obama administration continues to talk about how it operates in an open and transparent manner. However, this shows just the opposite.

To regular citizens like us, EPA’s actions raise questions and suspicions. It seems like surely some researchers received these questions in advance. These are complex scientific questions. It is difficult to imagine how one would be able to write acceptable answers in two weeks, let alone two days.

It is true that the documentation states that one could submit written responses after the August 31 deadline, but from what we understand, the late responses would not be considered in discussions at the September Science Advisory Panel.

As we continue to participate in this process, we have to wonder if we are playing by the same rules as others who are involved. We wonder if EPA is playing by its own rules and guidelines. In an open and transparent administration, citizens should not have these concerns.

Jere White is Executive Director of the Kansas Corn Growers Association and Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association based in Garnett, Kansas. He is also chairman of the Triazine Network, a national coalition of growers and agricultural organizations interested in regulatory actions involving the triazine herbicaides including atrazine. For more information, visit http://agsense.org.