For Immediate Release, October 11, 2021


Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

Lawsuit Challenges EPA’s Failure to Protect Freshwater Endangered Species From Pesticides Applied Directly to Water

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity has sued the Environmental Protection Agency for issuing a Clean Water Act permit that fails to fully assess the risks posed to freshwater endangered species by pesticides applied directly to water.

The nationwide “pesticide general permit” establishes the requirements for pesticide applications directly to water for purposes such as aquatic weed control, mosquito spraying, and forest canopy pest control.

In finalizing the permit, the EPA completed the required endangered species consultations with the National Marine Fisheries Service (now NOAA Fisheries) but failed to complete consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As a result, the permit includes protections for oceangoing species like Pacific salmon and steelhead but not for freshwater species such as the bull trout, pallid sturgeon, razorback sucker and dozens more.

“The EPA can’t pick and choose which endangered species to protect from pesticide pollution,” said Brett Hartl, the Center’s government affairs director. “Avoiding the reckless dumping of pesticides directly into our water would help species across the country, from the pallid sturgeon in the Midwest to the razorback sucker in the Southwest. It would also protect freshwater habitats and drinking water we depend on.”

A similar failure to assess harms to freshwater species occurred in 2016 when the previous general permit was finalized.

The pesticide general permit places few restrictions on those applying pesticides: Often they can apply the pesticides first, then get a permit afterward. Only the largest-volume applicators must receive a more comprehensive permit with restrictions on where and when pesticides can be applied. The permit also includes exemptions for spraying for human-health emergencies.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Oct. 4.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.