The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is no stranger to lawsuits — environmental groups have sued the agency for decades to force it to evaluate the effects of pesticides on endangered species. But now, EPA is taking the issue seriously and is being more proactive about assessing these substances’ compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to a feature article in Chemical & Engineering News, an independent news outlet of the American Chemical Society.
Senior Editor Britt E. Erickson writes that in January 2022, the agency rolled out a policy saying it would now evaluate how active ingredients could impact endangered species before new pesticides are introduced to the market, instead of waiting to be sued after products are already commercially available. With the policy, EPA also said it would consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service when appropriate. If the agency determines that adverse effects are likely, then it would require mitigation measures to be developed before the product hits the market.
Some environmental groups welcome the change, but challenges remain. The new policy is part of EPA’s larger plan to meet its ESA obligations, but it is unclear whether the plan will include already marketed products. The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service also have different approaches and thresholds when determining risk, compared to EPA. For example, in the case of malathion, EPA predicted that nearly all endangered species would be negatively impacted, whereas the Fish and Wildlife Service stated that less than 5% would experience such consequences. Some groups say that EPA’s models overestimate pesticide usage and potential impacts, forcing companies and farmers to use mitigation measures that aren’t necessary. In the meantime, litigation is likely to continue as a way to keep focusing attention on the issue.
The article is freely available at https://cenm.ag/endangered-species.
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Chemical & Engineering News
US EPA renews effort to protect endangered species from pesticides
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