EPA to assess impact on endangered species before signing off on pesticide ingredients

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will evaluate the potential impact of new pesticide active ingredients on endangered species before registering them, reversing a decades-long policy.

It was the agency’s practice not to assess such potential impacts before registering new active ingredients in most cases. During that period, the EPA “has refused to do this, and … then they keep losing in court,” said Lori Ann Burd, a senior attorney and environmental health program director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

The new policy means that if an EPA analysis determines a new pesticide active ingredient will likely have a negative impact on endangered species or their habitats, the agency will formally consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Services before making the registration official.

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The active ingredient registration process, Burd said, has “operated from this presumption for a long time, that all new pesticides are better … which just hasn't panned out to be true, [but] they’ve kind of rushed them onto the market under this presumption.”

The announcement, she said, indicates an abandonment of that assumption, as well as an acknowledgment that, like other agencies, the EPA is bound by the terms of the Endangered Species Act, and will determine these effects “as a routine part of the process rather than waiting to be sued and then haggling with us and fighting over it, eventually having to do nothing.”

However, Burd added that the Center for Biological Diversity was concerned about the lack of consultation between the EPA and the Fish and Wildlife Service on the decision.

“Now the Fish and Wildlife Service has to get their act together and step up and figure out how they are going to also normalize this process and stop acting like this is the end of the world every single time every other agency does it on every other issue,” she added.