Seattle Groups Sue EPA
by Craig Welch
Fourteen chemical companies have formed a special task force that holds secret — and illegal — meetings with Environmental Protection Agency administrators to weaken endangered-species laws, Seattle-based environmental groups charged in a lawsuit against the EPA yesterday.
At issue is whether the companies, including heavyweights Bayer, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont, use special access and influence to coax the EPA into relaxing oversight of pesticide use.
Industry representatives dismissed the accusation as "baseless" and said the task force legally pools resources and supplies technical data to the EPA about relationships between pesticides and endangered species. Environmentalists are trying "to derail meaningful regulations in service to political agendas," said Karen Reardon, with CropLife America.
The lawsuit by the Washington Toxics Coalition, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides and others was filed in federal court in Seattle.
EPA officials said agency staff members meet with the task force, just as they might other private groups. "The task force is not an EPA group," EPA spokesman David Deegan said. "EPA did not create it, did not organize it, did not fund it."
The lawsuit is part of a wider fight among Seattle environmentalists, the EPA and pesticide makers over salmon.
The EPA is in the early stages of creating rules that would let the agency act alone to determine if pesticides hurt endangered species, such as some salmon runs. The agency would make that determination based on how much chemical it takes to kill the fish.
The EPA currently must first confer with other agencies, such as the National Marine Fisheries Service. That agency's studies recently showed that the barest trace of some pesticides commonly found in salmon streams can harm the creature's central-nervous system, sense of smell and reproductive cycle.
A federal judge ruled recently that the EPA had failed to adequately assess the risk that 54 pesticides pose to Northwest salmon.
Pesticides Disrupt How Salmon Smell by Lisa Stiffler, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/1/00
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