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MAY 2002

EPA Pushed To Protect Species

By Coastal Post Staff

A lawsuit by three California environmental groups has prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to begin its first consultations in a decade on the effects pesticides have on endangered salmon and other imperiled species. This is an important step forward in protecting our own waterways in West Marin.

Although it is required under the Endangered Species Act to consult with Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service on the effects that registered pesticides have on endangered species, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to do so for any species for ten years, leaving hundreds of endangered plants and animals vulnerable during that time to the harmful effects of pesticides.

In a settlement signed today, EPA will consult with two other federal agencies, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, on specific uses of eighteen chemical poisons in California. They include how the pesticides are used in forestry, on various fruit, nut, nursery and forage crops, highway and utility rights-of-way and irrigation canals.

In their lawsuit, the environmentalists targeted some of the most commonly used pesticides registered by the EPA, including chlorpyrifos, diazinon, atrazine, Roundup, and 2,4-D.

One of the most potent is diazinon, which is used heavily on California lettuce crops, of which conventional growers used over 112,000 pounds in 2000 (even according to the Department of Pesticide Regulation). Government agencies routinely detect diazinon in rivers and other waterways. The EPA has determined that diazinon exceeds levels of concern for toxicity and is a serious risk to endangered species.

Another chemical in the settlement is atrazine, the pesticide most commonly found in rain and river water, which EPA acknowledges exceeds its level of concern for chronic toxicity to fish reproduction. Many endangered plants may be at risk from glyphosate (Roundup) in its registered use patterns (4,641,560 pounds recorded use in California in 2000), according to the EPA.

Endangered Species in Danger

"These species are close to extinction and pesticides continue to pollute their habitat but the EPA hasn't even begun to take action to protect them. How can an endangered species survive if the effect of widely used pesticides isn't taken into account?" said Patty Clary of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATs), the lead plaintiff group. Clary said, "We welcome the EPA's resolve to take these first important steps to protect some of the nation's most highly valued and imperiled wildlife species from the effects of pesticides."

"We're cautiously optimistic that this settlement will result in improved science to protect our water and the endangered species that live in it from the detrimental effects of pesticides," said Ken Miller of Humboldt Watershed Council.

Time for Public Comment

Before the settlement can become final, the EPA will post it on its website and ask the public for comment. Once comments have been received, the EPA will then decide whether changes need be made to the settlement. Only if the plaintiff groups agree with any changes, then the lawsuit will finally be resolved.

Within 60 days of the entry of a judgment, the EPA will be required to begin consultations with the National Marine Fish Service on the impacts of the target pesticides to seven California steelhead and salmon species. The EPA will also be required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service about the impacts of the pesticides on the 33 imperiled forest plants.

As a result of this litigation, the EPA will undertake a comprehensive analysis of the effects of these pesticides including 1) the active and inert ingredients in the pesticides, 2) known degradation products, 3) all registered formulation types (e.g. granular, flowable, powder) of the pesticides, and 4) both the highest and typical application rates for the pesticides.

If you wish to comment, visit the EPA web site ()

 

 

 

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