Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 22, 2018

Contact:  Stephanie Parent, Center for Biological Diversity, (971) 717-6404,
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network North America, (916) 216-1082,

Court Allows Historic Lawsuit on Pesticides, Endangered Species to Move Ahead

SAN FRANCISCO— A lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency seeking to protect rare and threatened plants and animals from older, highly toxic pesticides can proceed after a federal court ruling late Thursday.

The new ruling comes after the Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America challenged the failure of the agency, now led by the scandal-plagued Scott Pruitt, to assess the risks of pesticides known to be harmful to endangered species found across the country.

“This is a victory against Pruitt’s EPA, which is failing to protect our most imperiled wildlife from harmful pesticides,” said Stephanie Parent, a senior attorney at the Center. “Americans don’t want animals unnecessarily hurt by toxic pesticides, especially Florida panthers and other creatures already at the brink of extinction. The Trump administration should protect vulnerable species from these dangerous chemicals.”

The lawsuit seeks a reasonable timeline for EPA to assess and implement commonsense, on-the-ground measures that would safeguard endangered species from dangerous pesticides.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the EPA have found that endangered animals like Florida panthers, California condors, piping plovers, black-footed ferrets, Indiana bats and Alabama sturgeon are likely to be injured or killed by many commonly used pesticides.

"This is an important win. The court’s decision to allow this case to move forward — despite efforts to block it by EPA and pesticide industry lawyers — reaffirms the agency’s duty to protect health and the environment," said Kristin Schafer, executive director of Pesticide Action Network.

The Endangered Species Act requires the EPA to consult with federal wildlife biologists on the effects of chemicals applied in the habitat of imperiled species. To help these federal agencies break through years of gridlock, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report outlining a process to help the EPA work with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that use of pesticides adequately protects imperiled wildlife. 

In January 2017, the EPA released its first rigorous nationwide analysis of the effects of three pesticides on endangered species, finding that 97 percent of the more than 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act are likely to be harmed by chlorpyrifos, which has also been linked to brain damage in children. 

Once the Trump administration took office pesticide manufacturers asked the EPA and expert federal wildlife agencies to abandon four years of work on analyzing the dangers of pesticides on wildlife. And, in November 2018, EPA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to indefinitely delay the process.

Over the past six years Dow has donated $11 million to congressional campaigns and political action committees and spent an additional $75 million lobbying Congress. In January 2017, Dow was one of three companies that donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration. Shortly thereafter the EPA shocked public-health advocates by abruptly scrapping a proposed ban on chlorpyrifos.

EPA’s Office of Pesticide programs has a long history of failure to protect people and the environment from pesticides, such as 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, was banned in the European Union more than a decade ago.

Recently the EPA, in a “preliminary risk assessment,” found that the amount of the herbicide that’s released into the environment in the United States is likely harming most species of plants and animals, including mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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