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Groups Fight to Protect Endangered Species From Dangerous New Pesticide

Conservation groups sue Environmental Protection Agency for approval of pesticide without input from wildlife biologists
Farmer spraying pesticide in paddy field

Farmer spraying pesticide in paddy field.

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June 3, 2014
Washington, D.C. —

Conservation and food safety groups filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency today for failing to protect endangered species from a new, toxic pesticide called cyantraniliprole. EPA risked far-reaching harm to both aquatic and terrestrial species by approving the widespread use of this new pesticide in January without input from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and National Marine Fisheries services.

“The Endangered Species Act and just basic, common-sense requires EPA to seek input from our expert wildlife biologists before it blindly unleashes new pesticides across the American landscape,” said Brett Hartl, endangered species policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “EPA’s failure to look before it leaps has once again put imperiled wildlife across the country in harm’s way.”

EPA authorized widespread uses of the new pesticide in both agricultural and urban areas without measures to protect endangered species despite concluding in its own assessment that cyantraniliprole is “highly or very highly toxic” to scores of endangered species.  Based on these findings, the agency’s scientists recommended broad  measures to keep cyantraniliprole from reaching sensitive wildlife habitat.  While EPA concluded that it should consult federal wildlife biologists for more specific analysis and to develop on-the-ground protections for species, the agency failed to take that step.

“EPA’s unlawful and irresponsible approval ignored its own scientists’ warnings that strong protective measures are needed because this pesticide can drift into wildlife habitat,” said George Kimbrell, Senior Attorney for the Center for Food Safety. “The agency also failed to include measures to protect water quality from pesticide run-off despite the urging of local water management authorities.”

“EPA must stop putting pesticides it knows are harmful on the market without addressing harms to wildlife and agriculture,” said Jason Rylander, Senior Attorney at Defenders of Wildlife. “There’s no excuse for turning our endangered wildlife into a statistic when EPA already knows that reasonable protections are needed to curb the harm from this new chemical.”

The Endangered Species Act requires EPA to consult with federal wildlife biologists on the effects of chemicals applied within the habitat of at-risk wildlife. To help these federal agencies break through years of gridlock, a report issued last year by the National Academy of Sciences outlines a process for EPA to work together with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that pesticide regulation adequately protects imperiled wildlife.  In response to those recommendations, EPA announced several reforms last year designed to better protect endangered species. Yet EPA did not incorporate any of these reforms in its process for approving cyantraniliprole.

“EPA’s approval of cyantraniliprole without regard to its impacts on wildlife undermines recent collaborative efforts to reform EPA’s dangerous approach to assessing the risks pesticides pose to wildlife conservation,” said Steve Mashuda, an attorney at Earthjustice. “EPA can’t just pick and choose which chemicals it will evaluate.”

The lawsuit asks the federal district court in Washington, D.C. to order EPA to consult with federal wildlife biologists on cyantraniliprole’s effects on endangered species and to put in place interim protections necessary to protect wildlife until the consultation is complete.  Earthjustice is representing and co-counseling the case with the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, and Defenders of Wildlife.

Contacts

Steve Mashuda, Earthjustice, (206) 343-7340, ext. 1027

Brett Hartl, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 817-8121

Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, (443) 854-4368

Jason Rylander, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 682-9400

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.