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Agency Sued for Failure to Protect Endangered Species from Pesticides

(Beyond Pesticides, January 24, 2011) Citing the U.S. Environmental Protections Agency’s failure to protect over 200 endangered species from pesticides under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), two national environmental groups filed on January 20, 2011 a lawsuit to force agency implementation of the act. In what is penned by the groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), as the most comprehensive legal action ever brought under ESA, the lawsuit specifically challenges EPA’s failure to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service on the impacts of hundreds of EPA-registered pesticides that are known to be harmful to endangered and threatened species.

“For decades, the EPA has turned a blind eye to the disastrous effects pesticides can have on some of America’s rarest species,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center. “This lawsuit is intended to force the EPA to follow the law and ensure that harmful chemicals are not sprayed in endangered species habitats.”

According to EPA, the Endangered Species Act requires federal agencies, in consultation with FWS and/or the NOAA Fisheries Service, “to ensure that actions they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat of such species.” Despite extensive scientific evidence of widespread pesticide contamination in groundwater, drinking water and wildlife habitats across the country, however, EPA has registered over 18,000 different pesticides for use and over a billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the U.S.

“The EPA authorizes pesticide uses that result in millions of pounds of toxins, including carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, entering our waterways each year, polluting our soil and poisoning our drinking water,” said Mr. Miller. “Common-sense restrictions on pesticide use that protect endangered species can also safeguard human health.”

The Center cites the re-registration of the herbicide atrazine as one example of EPA’s failure to protect people and the environment. Atrazine is a major threat to wildlife. It harms the immune, hormone, and reproductive systems of aquatic animals. Fish and amphibians exposed to atrazine can exhibit hermaphrodism. Male frogs exposed to atrazine concentrations within federal standards can become so completely female that they can mate and lay viable eggs. Atrazine is linked to cancer, birth defects and endocrine disruption in humans, as well as significant harm to wildlife.

The lawsuit seeks protection for 214 endangered and threatened species throughout the United States, including the Florida panther, California condor, piping plover, black-footed ferret, arroyo toad, Indiana bat, bonytail chub and Alabama sturgeon.

The Center for Biological Diversity previously notified EPA back in February 2010 of its intent to sue the agency when it approved 394 pesticides known to be harmful to humans and wildlife, without consulting with wildlife regulatory agencies as to the pesticides’ effects on endangered species. The Center has filed previous suites to protect endangered species from pesticides, including the California red legged frog, and the polar bear.

In 2004, the Center Silent Spring Revisited: Pesticide Use and Endangered Species. The study describes how EPA has consistently disregarded the regulations put forth under the Endangered Species Act, and put the interests of the agrochemical industry above the natural environment and human health.

Source: Center for Biological Diversity Press Release


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