The Phaseout of Methyl Bromide in the United States

RCED-96-16: Published: Dec 15, 1995. Publicly Released: Dec 22, 1995.

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GAO provided information on the phaseout of methyl bromide in the United States, focusing on the: (1) scientific evidence that emissions of methyl bromide are depleting the ozone layer; (2) availability of economical and effective alternatives to the pesticide; (3) effects of banning the pesticide on U.S. trade in agricultural commodities; and (4) Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) authority under the Clean Air Act to exempt essential uses of methyl bromide from the phaseout.

GAO found that: (1) world scientists participating in the United Nation's Environment Programme believe that emissions of methyl bromide contribute significantly to ozone depletion; (2) although several chemical and nonchemical pest-control alternatives to methyl bromide are available, none are as economical and effective as methyl bromide; (3) if other countries continue to use methyl bromide after it is phased out in the United States, they will have an unfair advantage in international markets for the various agricultural commodities produced with the substance; and (4) the Clean Air Act does not authorize EPA to grant exemptions on producing and importing methyl bromide except for use in medical devices and for export to developing countries that have signed the Montreal Protocol.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In hearings held in fiscal year 1997, EPA supported proposed changes to the Clean Air Act to extend the phase out of methyl bromide to 2005, and to allow for the exemption of quarantine, preshipment and critical agricultural uses. The Congress enacted this legislation in October 1998. EPA's Stratospheric Protection Division is moving forward on rulemaking for a quarantine and preshipment exemption, and has begun discussions with the agricultural community, USDA and environmental groups on an equitable and environmentally sound process for the critical agricultural use exemption.

    Recommendation: To provide for an orderly phaseout of methyl bromide, the Administrator, EPA, should seek changes to the Clean Air Act to authorize the agency to grant exemptions from the ban for essential uses. This authority should provide for EPA to grant exemptions after determining that adequate alternatives for a particular use are not available and that the adverse impact of not having methyl bromide for that use outweighs the negative effects on human health and the environment of further production and importation.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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