A federal judge in Seattle yesterday overturned new Bush administration rules that weaken the governing of pesticide use and their effect on endangered plants and animals. The court struck down the EPA’s new rules and restored prior standards that provided greater protection to protected wildlife. The judge determined that the rules were “arbitrary and capricious” because they ignored the risks to species and because EPA political appointees ignored the unanimous concerns of its own scientists.
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought by a coalition of national and regional wildlife conservation and pesticide reform organizations.
“Pesticides are driving America’s wildlife toward extinction, and this administration wants to remove the checks and balances that hold them accountable,” said Patti Goldman, an attorney with Earthjustice, who is representing the coalition. “It’s time for them to stop trying to sidestep the law, and start addressing this problem in a serious and systematic way.”
Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to ensure that the use of pesticides won’t set back the chances of survival and recovery of species threatened with extinction. The law mandates EPA to consult with wildlife specialists in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to apply the best available science to meeting this obligation.
The challenged rules — the product of fierce closed-door lobbying by pesticide companies — cut the wildlife scientists out of the equation, effectively allowing pesticide managers at EPA, not wildlife experts, to make key decisions about the impact these chemicals have on protected species. By eliminating the checks and balances built into the ESA through inter-agency consultation, the new rule makes it easier for agribusiness and other industries to use highly toxic pesticides despite the risks to the environment. Scientists, conservationists, and members of Congress had strongly opposed the rule change.
The ruling found that the rules would “actually result in harm to listed species.” [pg 37, linked above] and noted the “total absence of any technical and scientific evidence to support or justify” the agencies’ rule. [pg 35] He also found that the agency had violated the law by failing to prepare an environmental impact statement assessing the impacts of, and alternatives to, the proposal.
Details, Opinion, and Documents at Earth Justice