Some thoughts about Santa and updates from the EPA on agrichemicals

AgScience’s Christmas Eve roundup of science news led us to a seasonal item on the RNZ site, blending physics and  – dare we suggest it without causing offence or upset?  – belief systems.

The item was teasingly headed Santa:  How does he do it?

Our readers can  tune in to the the answer.

 Listen to Sci Fi / Sci Fact – Santa: How does he do it? duration25′ :16″

RNZ tells its audience: Continue reading

EPA requires toxic fumigant to be phased out by 2033 – experts comment on the decision

The Environmental Protection Authority has decided to phase out the use of methyl bromide gas by 2033.

Methyl bromide is a toxic and ozone-depleting  biosecurity tool, used internationally to kill pests. India and China require its use on logs they receive from New Zealand.

Under the phase-out programme, ship-hold fumigation will be banned from 1 January 2023.

This rule change recognises it is not possible to recapture methyl bromide during shiphold fumigation.  Moreover, the risks to human health and the environment outweigh the benefits.

Operators using methyl bromide while the bans are phased in will be required to provide annual reports to the EPA about their activities in greater detail than before, to ensure actions are being taken to reduce methyl bromide emissions. This information is additional to the existing requirements administered by WorkSafe NZ.

The EPAs Decision-making Committee is encouraging continued negotiations with international trade partners to reduce and eliminate the use of methyl bromide and explore acceptance of alternatives. Continue reading

Methyl bromide recapture hearing formally closed

An Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) decision-making committee has formally closed its hearing on the recapture rules for the fumigant methyl bromide.

The gas is mainly used to fumigate logs and timber products before they are exported. It is a toxic and ozone-depleting substance.

Recapture was required by October 2020, but this was pre-empted by the industry group Stakeholders In Methyl Bromide Reduction (STIMBR) applying for reconsideration of the definition and timing of recapture. The approval to import or manufacture the gas cannot be revoked as part of this process.

A public hearing was held in August last year and remained open while the Decision-making Committee continued to receive information.

The committee has now officially closed the hearing, paving the way for a decision by September. This means no further information can be submitted to or be considered by the committee.

The decision, and any future requirements, will take priority over the recapture extensions previously granted to the applicant.

All of the material before the Decision-making Committee is available on the EPA website.

Read the official record of the hearing closure (PDF, 141KB)

Read about the modified reassessment of methyl bromide

Source:  Environmental Protection Authority

EPA’s methyl bromide hearing moves fully online

The Environmental Protection Authority’s hearing on recapture rules for the log fumigant methyl bromide will take place entirely online, due to the national rise in COVID-19 alert levels.

Methyl bromide, a toxic and ozone-depleting substance. is mainly used to disinfect logs and timber products destined for export to certain countries.

Recapture was required by October this year. This deadline has been extended until April next year while a modified reassessment hearing takes place.

A Decision-making Committee began the hearing on Tuesday this week, to consider the definition and timing of recapture rules. The hearing is being held online, with the Decision-making Committee attending remotely.

Some submitters were due to participate in person at venues in Auckland, Wellington, and Tauranga, but will now need to make their submissions via Zoom video conferencing. Continue reading

Agencies join forces in methyl bromide monitoring programme

Plans are being put in place to increase methyl bromide monitoring following a theoretical modelling report about how the log fumigant disperses into the environment after use.

This is additional monitoring, over and above the routine monitoring that industry is required to carry out every time methyl bromide fumigation occurs.

The mathematical modelling of operations at the Port of Tauranga was commissioned by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) as part of a modified reassessment currently under way to review the rules around methyl bromide use.

This modified reassessment is a statutory process where an independent decision-making committee considers evidence in relation to the way methyl bromide is used. The additional monitoring, to be carried out by WorkSafe, will feed into that process.

The Ministry of Health is maintaining a watching brief on the monitoring programme and stresses there is no immediate public health concern. Continue reading