Court Hearing Will Focus on EPA's Failure to Protect Nation's Endangered Wildlife From Pesticides

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Lori Ann Burd, (971) 717-6405, laburd@biologicaldiversity.org

Court Hearing Will Focus on EPA's Failure to Protect Nation's Endangered Wildlife From Pesticides

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Monday, May 9 in the most comprehensive legal action ever brought under the Endangered Species Act to protect rare and threatened plants and animals from pesticides in the United States. The Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s systemic failure to assess the impacts of more than 30 pesticides known to be harmful to dozens of endangered species found across the country.

Florida panther
Florida panther photo by Larry W. Richardson, USFWS. This photo is available for media use.

“Pesticides are poisoning endangered animals, but the EPA is turning a blind eye,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center. “This lawsuit, if we’re successful, will force the EPA to take a comprehensive look at pesticide impacts on endangered wildlife across the country at long last — and take common-sense steps to protect our wildlife from these chemicals.”

The lawsuit seeks protection from dangerous pesticides for dozens of endangered and threatened species throughout the United States, including Florida panthers, California condors, piping plovers, black-footed ferrets, arroyo toads, Indiana bats and Alabama sturgeon. Documents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and EPA, as well as peer-reviewed scientific studies, show that these animals may be hurt by the pesticides at issue in the case.

Despite well-documented risks of pesticides to imperiled wildlife, for decades the EPA has “registered” pesticides for use in the United States without conducting legally required Endangered Species Act consultations with expert federal wildlife agencies to determine whether the pesticides will harm protected wildlife. This failure prevents the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service from fully evaluating pesticide risks and from restricting pesticide uses known to be harmful to protected plants and animals.

An example of the EPA’s failure to protect people and the environment is its continued 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, was banned in the European Union more than a decade ago. Just last week 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.

Monday’s hearing before Circuit Judges Wardlaw, Paez and Bea will be at 10:30 a.m. in Courtroom 2, 3rd Floor Room 330, James R. Browning U.S. Courthouse, 95 7th Street in San Francisco, Calif. The hearing addresses the environmental groups’ appeal of the district court decision granting in part motions by the EPA and pesticide industry groups to dismiss the lawsuit. The hearing is open to the public. Center attorneys will be available after the hearing to discuss the case.

Background
More than a billion pounds of pesticides are used annually in the United States, and the EPA has registered more than 16,000 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.

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 and has resulted in temporary restrictions on pesticide use in sensitive habitats. Just last month, as a result of litigation by the Center, the EPA completed its first rigorous nationwide analysis of the effects of three pesticides on endangered species. The agency found that 97 percent of more than 1,700 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act are likely to be hurt by malathion and chlorpyrifos. The analysis is likely to lead to permanent restrictions on some of the most harmful uses of these highly toxic pesticides.  

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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.

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