Industry Pushes Bush to Relax Endangered Species Law
(Beyond Pesticides, September 22, 2003) In a dramatic and urgent appeal to the Bush Administration, 235 chemical industry and conventional farming, commodity, forestry, and supply groups are asking for action on EPA's proposed rulemaking for pesticide actions involving endangered species. The letter, sent September 12, 2003 to James Connaughton, Chairman, Council on Environmental Quality in Washington, DC, says that the failure of EPA to act immediately in the face of recent court decisions may lead to the enjoining or restricting of some pesticide use that "could be devastating."
EPA issued an Advance
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Endangered Species and Pesticide
68 FR 3785-3795, January 24, 2003, in which the agency sought public comments on a proposal to dismantle the Endangered Species Act provisions that require consultation between the Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service and EPA. The courts have ruled that EPA has failed to carry out its responsibility in this regard. In issuing the proposed rule, EPA said it will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to design a program that will "minimize the impacts to persons engaged in agricultural food and fiber commodity production and other affected pesticide users and applicators.'' It is this requirement that the industry coalition is urging the Bush Administration to undercut. The chemical industry has long sought in Congress to weaken and effectively repeal the Endangered Species Act because of the use restrictions that result from its implementation.
In Washington Toxic Coalition et al v. EPA and CropLife America (intervenor), the Court found, "[I]t is undisputed that EPA has not initiated, let alone completed, consultation with respect to the relevant 55 pesticide active ingredients," and "EPA's own reports document the potentially-significant risks posed by registered pesticides to threatened and endangered salmonids and their habitat." The court ordered EPA to begin the consultation process on the 55 pesticides by December 1, 2004 and went beyond that specific list to say that it would be reasonable to complete a review of all pesticides affecting salmonids by 2007, given the 18 years that have passed since the first salmonid-species listing in 1989. For more information, click here.
In its letter to EPA, the industry coalition makes broad claims on the impact of the litigation, should EPA fail to act, saying,
"If these lawsuits prevail, the consequences could be devastating -- removing critical products from crop-pest management plans, impacting trade, taking land out of agricultural production and driving small growers out of business. Public health protection will be compromised if access to mosquito and other disease-vector controls and consumer pest control products are restricted. The ability to effectively protect the nation's infrastructure by controlling vegetation along roads and power transmission rights-of-way, to control exotic and invasive species that pose threats to water resources for drinking, irrigation and transportation would also be impaired. In summary, growers, homeowners and businesses involved in caring for farms, grounds, forests and other important resources might be denied useful and essential tools without scientific or factual basis."
Scientists calculate that the world is losing an estimated two to five species per hour and populations are going extinct at a rate of 1,800 populations per hour in tropical forests. The numbers are based on a conservative calculation of known rates of habitat loss. Populations, critical to biodiversity, are groups of individuals of the same species in a given location. Species comprise one or more populations. (Hughes, Daily and Ehrlich, Science, 1997)
For more information and background on the relevant lawsuits, see Beyond Pesticides' Daily News, EPA Publishes Proposed Changes to the Endangered Species Act, January 27, 2003.