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U.S. Again Seeking Delay in Protecting Ozone Layer

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Old 11-24-04, 11:09 AM
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Angry U.S. Again Seeking Delay in Protecting Ozone Layer

U.S. Again Seeking Delay in Protecting Ozone Layer

The U.S. is foremost among 16 nations seeking an exemption from guidelines set in the 1987 Montreal Protocol for the phase-out of methyl bromide, a potent ozone-depleting chemical used for agricultural purposes.

The U.S. previously agreed to ban methyl bromide by next January. Instead it is expected to push for a multi-year exemption to the phase-out as the signatories to the Montreal Protocol gather in Prague this week.

The U.S. is requesting permission to use 9,379 metric tons of the neurotoxin in 2006. That comprises over 75% of the exemptions being sought, with the 15 other countries requesting approximately 2,700 tons in combination.

BushGreenwatch reported in February on the request of the Bush Administration to increase methyl bromide production, rather than continuing to reduce it -- a move that prompted an unprecedented special meeting of the treaty parties in March of this year.[1]

At that time the U.S. was granted a one-year exemption with a freeze on production at current levels and an allowance of almost 9,000 metric tons for 2005. This number was almost twice the total allowance for the 11 other nations also granted exemptions at the time. [2]

David Doniger, policy director at Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center (NRDC), says that by pushing for major exemptions to the Montreal Protocol, the Bush Administration is "risking a catastrophic breakdown of the global ozone treaty, endangering the health of millions of Americans, and exposing American businesses to as much as $10 billion per year in trade sanctions."[3] "What's at stake here," says Doniger, "is whether the U.S. is going back on its commitments to protect the ozone layer under the Montreal Protocol." [4]

Exemptions are allowed under the protocol when a technical or economically viable alternative does not exist. But the use of methyl bromide has serious implications in addition to ozone-depletion.

Originally developed during World War II as a nerve gas, it also causes reproductive problems, and exposure to it has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer among pesticide applicators and farm workers.


[1] BushGreenwatch, Feb. 23, 2004.
[2] "Methyl bromide exemptions to be decided next week," Greenwire, Nov. 18, 2004.
[3] Letter from David D. Doniger to Hon. Michael O. Leavitt, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency.
[4] Greenwire, op. cit.
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