Pesticide Victory: Proposal to Restrict Toxic Pesticides in Bay Area Endangered Species Habitat

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185

Pesticide Victory: Proposal to Restrict Toxic Pesticides in Bay Area Endangered Species Habitat

Lawsuit Settlement Would Require Environmental Protection Agency to Evaluate, Restrict Use of 74 Pesticides Harmful to 11 Bay Area Endangered Species

SAN FRANCISCO - The U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency today proposed to formally evaluate the harmful
effects of 74 pesticides on 11 endangered and threatened species in the San
Francisco Bay Area over the next five years, and to impose interim restrictions
on use of these pesticides in and adjacent to endangered species habitats. The
proposal stems from a settlement agreement with the Center for Biological
Diversity, which sued the EPA in 2007 for violating the Endangered Species Act
by registering and allowing the use of toxic pesticides in Bay Area endangered
species habitats without determining whether the chemicals jeopardize those
species’ existence.

“Tens of millions
of pounds of toxic and poisonous chemicals, known to be deadly to endangered
species and harmful to human health, including proven carcinogens and endocrine
disruptors, are applied in the Bay Area each year, and many of those find their
way through runoff or drift into our soil, creeks and rivers, San Francisco Bay,
and sensitive wildlife habitats,” said Jeff Miller, conservation advocate with
the Center. “The toxic stew of pesticides in the Bay-Delta has played a major
role in the collapse of native fish populations, and pesticides are a leading
cause of the loss of native amphibians. This agreement is a positive step for
protection of some of the Bay Area’s most endangered wildlife from
pesticides.”

The
11 San Francisco Bay-area endangered species are the Alameda whipsnake,
bay checkerspot butterfly, California clapper rail, California
freshwater shrimp, California tiger salamander, delta smelt, salt marsh
harvest mouse, San Francisco garter snake, San Joaquin kit fox,
tidewater goby, and valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Similar
protections were obtained by the Center for the California red-legged frog under
a 2006 settlement that prohibited use of 66 pesticides in and adjacent to frog
habitats statewide.

The EPA is required under the
Endangered Species Act to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over
registration, re-registration and approved uses of pesticides that may endanger
listed species or adversely affect their designated critical habitat. The
consultation is designed to ensure that EPA avoids authorizing pesticide uses
that jeopardize the existence of endangered species. The EPA has consistently
failed to evaluate or adequately regulate pesticides harmful to endangered
species.

The EPA today published a proposed
settlement agreement with the Center and is taking public comment on a
stipulated injunction that would establish a series of deadlines for the EPA to
conduct formal consultations with the Service and make “effects determinations''
on 74 pesticides that may affect 11 Bay Area species listed under the Endangered
Species Act. The injunction would set aside the EPA's authorization of use for
each of the 74 pesticides in, and adjacent to, endangered species habitats
within eight Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra
Costa, Marin, Napa, San
Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and
Sonoma) until
formal consultation is completed. The consultations should result in
cancellation of some pesticide uses and permanent use restrictions for harmful
pesticides. The EPA will make the effect determinations beginning October 20,
2009 and ending June 30, 2014.

The settlement includes interim
pesticide-use restrictions in habitat for the 11 Bay Area species, in order to
reduce the potential exposure of these species to harmful pesticides during the
consultation period and Fish and Wildlife Service assessments of pesticide
impacts.

Reported pesticide use in the Bay
Area is about 10 million pounds annually, but actual pesticide use is estimated
to be several times this amount since most home and commercial pesticide use is
not reported to the state. Pesticides have been implicated in the recent
collapse of Bay-Delta fish populations such as delta smelt, longfin smelt, and
chinook salmon. Toxic pulses of pesticides have been documented in Bay Area
streams and the Delta during critical stages in fish development, and many local
water bodies are listed as “impaired” for not meeting water-quality standards
due to high concentrations of extremely toxic pesticides such as chlorpyrifos
and diazinon.

Numerous studies have definitively
linked pesticides with significant developmental, neurological, and reproductive
damage to amphibians. Pesticide contamination can cause deformities, abnormal
immune system functions, diseases, injury, and death of frogs and salamanders.
Studies by Dr. Tyrone Hayes at the University of California have strengthened the case for
banning atrazine, a potent chemical that is the most common contaminant of
ground, surface, and drinking water nationwide. Dr. Hayes demonstrated that
atrazine is an endocrine disruptor that “assaults male sexual development,”
interfering with reproduction by chemically castrating and feminizing male
frogs. Atrazine has also been linked to increased prostate cancer, decreased
sperm count, and high risk of breast cancer in humans. Thousands of pounds of
atrazine are used each year in the Bay Area in proximity to amphibian
habitats.

In 2006 the Center published Poisoning
Our Imperiled Wildlife: San Francisco Bay Area Endangered Species at
Risk from Pesticides
, a
report analyzing the EPA’s dismal record in protecting endangered species
and the agency’s ongoing refusal to reform pesticide registration and use in
accordance with scientific findings. In 2004 the
Center published Silent
Spring Revisited: Pesticide Use and Endangered Species
, detailing the decades-long failure
of the EPA to regulate pesticides harmful to endangered species. The EPA still
has no meaningful plan to protect endangered species from pesticides.

The lawsuit, report on pesticide
impacts to Bay Area species, maps of pesticide use, and information about the
listed species are on the Center’s
pesticides Web page
.

###

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

Share This Article

More in: