WASHINGTON— The Environmental Protection Agency’s pesticide office announced new policies today designed to address the agency’s multi-decade failure to assess harms to endangered species before approving new pesticides.
For decades the EPA has failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act’s clear requirement that the agency consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop protective measures for endangered species before registering new pesticides.
As a result, the agency has approved hundreds of pesticides, including highly toxic neonicotinoid pesticides, that it has known can harm and kill endangered species, including rusty patched bumblebees, northern long-eared bats and whooping cranes.
“We hope these first steps mark the beginning of the end of the EPA’s reckless fast-track approvals of dangerous pesticides,” said Brett Hartl, the Center for Biological Diversity’s government affairs director. “Now that the EPA has stopped digging itself deeper into a hole, it must make sure that real on-the-ground conservation measures are put in place to protect endangered species and the places they live from harmful pesticides.”
Today’s announcement means that the EPA will initiate formal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or National Marine Fisheries Service before granting a registration for a new active ingredient.
The EPA will also attempt to consider the severity of the likely harms from new active ingredients and require additional protective measures for any pesticide products to minimize any incidental take — harm, injury or death — to listed species that could result.
Finally, the EPA may also require pesticides applicators to use the “Bulletins Live! Two” online system, which puts geographic restrictions on pesticide use to protect endangered species.
However, until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and/or National Marine Fisheries Service completes any formal consultations requested by the EPA, few conservation measures can be fully enacted to get endangered species back on the road to recovery.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, in particular, has been unable to complete a biological opinion on pesticides in a timely manner despite Congress allocating resources specifically for this purpose.
“These commonsense reforms make clear that pesticides should no longer be rubber-stamped regardless of the damage they wreak,” said Hartl. “But the Biden EPA and Fish and Wildlife Service both have a lot more work to do if they truly want to significantly reduce the number of endangered species killed or injured by toxic pesticides.”