For Immediate Release, March 15, 2013
Contact: Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 669-7357
Court Hearing Focuses on Whether EPA Must Protect Hundreds of Endangered Species From Pesticides
SAN FRANCISCO— A federal district court in San Francisco will hear arguments today in the most comprehensive legal action ever brought under the Endangered Species Act to protect imperiled animals from pesticides. The Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to assess the impacts of hundreds of pesticides known to be harmful to more than 200 endangered and threatened species.
Today’s hearing addresses motions filed by the EPA and pesticide industry groups to dismiss the lawsuit.
“For decades, the EPA has turned a blind eye to the disastrous effects pesticides have on some of America’s rarest species,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate with the Center. “We’re trying to make sure the EPA does its legal and moral duty to make sure harmful chemicals aren’t sprayed in the same places where these vulnerable wild animals are trying to survive.”
The lawsuit seeks protection from harmful pesticides for 212 endangered and threatened species throughout the United States, including Florida panthers, California condors, piping plovers, black-footed ferrets, arroyo toads, Indiana bats, bonytail chubs and Alabama sturgeon. Documents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and EPA, as well as peer-reviewed scientific studies, show that these species can be harmed by the more than 300 pesticides at issue.
Despite the well-documented risks of pesticides to hundreds of imperiled species, for decades the EPA has “registered,” that is permitted pesticide uses, without required consultations with expert federal agencies to properly study their impacts. This noncompliance prevents the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service from evaluating pesticide risks and restricting pesticide uses known to be harmful to protected species.
After the filing of this lawsuit in 2011, the EPA and the two federal wildlife agencies requested that the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council examine the agencies’ joint responsibilities under the Endangered Species Act and provide recommendations regarding how best to complete the consultation process under the Act. The final Academy report is expected this month.
Today’s hearing, before Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero, will be at 9:30 a.m. at 450 Golden Gate Avenue, Courtroom G – 15th Floor, in San Francisco. The hearing is open to the public. Center attorney Collette Adkins Giese will be available after the hearing to discuss the case. To arrange an interview, please call (651) 955-3821.
More than a billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the United States, and the EPA has registered more than 18,000 different pesticides for use. Extensive scientific studies show widespread and pervasive pesticide contamination in groundwater, drinking water and wildlife habitats throughout the country.
Many EPA-approved pesticides are linked to cancer and other severe health effects in humans. Some pesticides can act as endocrine disruptors, interfering with natural hormones, damaging reproductive function and offspring, and causing developmental, neurological and immune problems in wildlife and humans. Endocrine-disrupting pesticides cause sexual deformities such as intersex fish (with male and female parts) that cannot reproduce. Scientists believe that pesticides may also play a role in colony collapse disorder, the recent mass disappearance of bees that are agriculturally important pollinators.
A new scientific study published last month shows that rapid declines of grassland bird species in the United States are strongly correlated with insecticide use. Scientists found that collapsing populations of grassland birds are strongly linked to use of lethally toxic insecticides. There has been widespread opposition to the EPA’s approvals without adequate review of a new generation of nerve-agent insecticides called “neonicotinoids,” which are linked to die-offs of honeybees.
An example of the EPA’s failure to protect people and the environment is the re-registration of the dangerous herbicide atrazine, a widespread pollutant of groundwater and drinking water in this country. Atrazine, which causes reproductive problems and chemically castrates male frogs even at extremely low concentrations, has been banned by the European Union. Recent research links atrazine to cancer, birth defects and endocrine disruption in humans, as well as significant harm to wildlife.
A series of lawsuits by the Center and other conservation groups has forced the EPA to consult on the impacts of scores of pesticides on some endangered species, primarily in California, and resulted in temporary restrictions on pesticide use in sensitive habitats. The litigation now before the court is the first with a nationwide scope, as it seeks Endangered Species Act compliance for hundreds of pesticides on hundreds of species across the country.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.