Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 4, 2019

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

Eight Senators Call for Investigation of Bernhardt's Role in Suppressing Science Showing Pesticide Harmed Nearly 1,400 Protected Species

WASHINGTON— Eight U.S. senators are calling on the inspector general for the Department of the Interior to investigate Acting Secretary David Bernhardt’s role in blocking the release of a scientific assessment showing the pesticide chlorpyrifos threatens the existence of nearly 1,400 protected species.

Bernhardt’s suppression of the scientific assessments by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which were ready for public review in October 2017, was revealed in a document obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity through the Freedom of Information Act. Those findings were highlighted in a New York Times investigation published last week. Bernhardt’s actions followed a request by the pesticide industry in April 2017 to scrap the four-year effort of career scientist to quantify the impacts of chlorpyrifos.

“Pesticide companies wanted the evidence of catastrophic harm to wildlife to go away and Bernhardt did their bidding and buried it,” said Brett Hartl, director of government affairs at the Center. “Bernhardt’s direct interference in the release of these alarming scientific findings makes clear he’s singularly unfit to lead the Interior department.”

The determination by Fish and Wildlife Service scientists that the insecticide jeopardizes 1,399 federally protected species prompted no action by the Trump administration to curb its use. Instead the administration worked to undercut the findings and delay all further efforts to assess and reduce the impacts of pesticides on endangered species.

The letter from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), outlining today’s request for an investigation into Bernhardt’s conduct was joined by senators Tom Udall (D-Colo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

The request follows a similar call for an inquiry last week by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who grilled Bernhardt on his role in withholding the assessments during the acting secretary’s senate confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

In today’s letter, the eight senators noted that their request followed their September 2018 call for Interior’s inspector general to investigate “instances of potential alterations to scientific reports, documents, or communications produced by DOI as well as political pressure influencing science at DOI.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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