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Critical Use Nomination for Methyl Bromide

Daniel A. Reifsnyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment
Remarks at the 19th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
Montreal, Quebec
September 18, 2007

Thank you, Madame Co-Chair.

The Parties agreed to create the critical use exemption to accompany the phase-out of methyl bromide (MBr), recognizing the need for an exemption and recognizing that it should not result in economic dislocation, as evidenced by the inclusion of language that alternatives need to be "economically feasible" for the specific circumstances of use.

When Parties decided to add methyl bromide to the list of controlled substances in 1992 in Copenhagen, the United States was using about 40% of the world's total amount of methyl bromide. No other ozone-depleting substance has ever had such a large percentage used by just one country when control measures were adopted by the Parties.

The reason the United States was using far more methyl bromide in 1992 than any other country is due to the nature of U.S. agricultural production systems. The U.S. agricultural production systems to grow crops using methyl bromide are typically different from those in other countries. U.S. farms using methyl bromide are usually much, much larger than in other countries. And those farms have production systems that rely on methyl bromide. Since our last meeting, Madame Co-Chair, I had the opportunity to visit with our growers in Florida and in California. I can tell you from first-hand observation that it is extraordinary to see some 700 acres of strawberry production in California's Central Valley alone and to realize that one state in the United States has 34,000 acres of strawberries under cultivation!

The United States did ratify the Copenhagen amendments, and since then the United States has spent over $400 million dollars in the development, research, testing and trials of alternatives. In fact, many of the world's alternatives began their development and testing in the United States. And this commitment has meant that most U.S. users in a sector have adopted alternatives.

For 2009 the United States submitted a nomination for methyl bromide for only a small percentage of each use sector because the majority of each sector has adopted alternatives. It is only for the farms with the most severe pests, where the pests cannot be controlled technically or economically with alternatives, that the United States makes nominations.

For U.S. farmers growing fresh market cucumbers and melons, we are nominating only 1.5% of the area grown in the United States. In tomatoes, we are nominating only for 13.5 % of the area because in those areas there is severe pest pressure that cannot be controlled by alternatives, or regulatory restrictions that do not permit the use of alternatives. In peppers we nominated only 17%.

We have heard from others that they want to bring up the issue of our inventory of methyl bromide produced legally before the 2005 phaseout. We note that our own projections show that our stocks will be completely depleted in 2009 based on the current rate of drawdown. I want to emphasize, Madame Co-Chair, that we believe our current stocks will be completely depleted in 2009.

With respect to essential use exemptions for CFCs, the Technical and Economic Assessment Panel (TEAP) noted years ago that having a strategic reserve as a contingency against unexpected disruptions in supply is something to consider, like the time that two ISO tanks rolled off a ship in the North Sea and the metered dose inhaler (MDI) manufacturer needed immediately to re-order the CFCs. In this connection we note with interest the paragraph that the European Community submitted in its critical use conference room paper (CRP). The paragraph seems to try to address the issue of the need for an operational supply of stocks. We understand this concern because the U.S. plant provides countries all over the world with methyl bromide for feedstock use, for quarantine and pre-shipment (QPS), for meeting domestic needs in Article 5 countries, and for critical use exemptions.

As you know, we expressed a concern at this year's Open-Ended Working Group Meeting (OEWG) because the Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee (MBTOC) and the TEAP decided to re-configure the way the MBTOC operates. Essentially, they created two free-standing sub-committees. The concern we expressed was that we had just received a workplan from the MBTOC in November 2006, but by March 2007 the MBTOC was operating as two sub-committees. And yet, MBTOC had given no notice to the Parties. We would like to understand better how the final MBTOC report this year was developed. We understand the operation of two sub-groups this year was to address the compressed timeframe MBTOC faced this year with the Meeting of the Parties (MOP) in September to celebrate the Protocol's 20th Anniversary. Now however, we understand that the MBTOC has indicated that it will continue to operate as two distinct sub-committees.

We continue to have concerns with the meta-analysis, and remain confused over its use in MBTOC deliberations. There was the letter to the MBTOC that we delivered to the Secretariat at the OEWG in July 2006 that was lost, that asked for an explanation of how the meta-analysis was conducted. The letter was found again after the MOP last year, and since then we have had considerable back and forth with the MBTOC and with the Australian institution where the MBTOC-commissioned meta-analysis was developed. We will continue this communication with the MBTOC and the Australian institution. However, before the next OEWG, we would request that MBTOC prepare a detailed written description concerning how the meta-analysis is being used to develop MBTOC's critical use recommendations. As many of you may remember, the Parties agreed in 2004, to support the MBTOC in its review of critical use nominations and agreed to provide up to $63,000 for the development of what we now call the meta-analysis. In that decision, Decision XVI/5, the Parties clearly stated that the financial support was "to ensure that [MBTOC] reports provide sufficient levels of transparency and detail to meet the requirements of the Parties." In last year's and this year's reports the MBTOC cited the meta-analysis as a basis for recommendations but there has never been a clear description of how that is done.

Finally, we have another concern that the MBTOC included new presumptions for the review of critical use nominations in its final report that do not meet the conditions agreed by the Parties for the MBTOC's operation -- that the presumptions are "transparent and technically and economically justified." We have not seen the citations and basis for the new presumptions proposed by MBTOC. Without more detailed explanation, we do not understand why the presumptions for the future review of CUNs are being proposed to change at this time. We believe that the MBTOC must provide much more detailed information that demonstrates why the proposed application rates in the presumptions are technically and economically justified.

Madame Co-Chair, we have attempted to capture many of the points I have made here in my statement in a conference room paper (CRP). I was under the impression it would be ready for tonight but have learned that it has not yet been made available. I hope that it will be available soon, and we look forward to further discussions with Parties on this topic. I thank you.

Released on September 25, 2007

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