Under new rules, EPA will be allowed to approve pesticides without consulting the federal wildlife agencies about potential harm to endangered plants and animals.
The Endangered Species Act requires such consultations before EPA registers a product. But the new rules grant EPA the right to make this determination on its own.
In practice, over the past decade EPA has engaged in almost no consultations with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding endangered species. Before the rules were promulgated, FWS and NMFS conducted a yearlong review of EPA's ecological risk assessment methods.
The rules were put in place to stave off further litigation over whether pesticides affect endangered species. "This is the first Administration to address a long-standing need to create a workable framework to protect species, ensuring that the potential effects of thousands of pest-control products are examined in a timely and comprehensive manner," FWS Director Steven A. Williams says.
Wildlife protection groups have used the Endangered Species Act as grist for lawsuits against EPA. In January, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington temporarily banned the use of 38 pesticides along Pacific Northwest salmon streams until EPA determines whether they harm the fish.
Defenders of Wildlife claims the new rules are a step backward. "The President's policy jeopardizes human health and endangered wildlife by allowing more potentially dangerous chemicals to be pumped into the environment without proper review," says Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife.