Critics say Pesticide Makers Illegally Influence EPA Policyby Lisa Stiffler
Pesticide makers are illegally influencing rules meant to protect endangered species from dangerous chemicals, environmentalists say in a letter sent to the Environmental Protection Agency.
An industry task force created to provide data has overstepped its bounds, they say.
The group is meeting behind closed doors and pushing for new rules giving it more power to influence decisions on pesticides used near endangered creatures, according to the critics.
The letter, delivered last week, demanded that the EPA change task force operations in 30 days -- or face legal action.
Groups signing the letter include the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and Washington Toxics Coalition.
Officials with the EPA and an industry group denied the allegations. They said the task force is behaving appropriately and had not committed any violations.
The new regulations are being developed in an "open and transparent process," said EPA spokesman Doug Parsons.
The task force publicly submitted comments, said Karen Reardon, spokeswoman for CropLife America, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group to which most of the task force members belong.
"It's a public docket," she said. "Anyone can make comments."
The effect of pesticides has become an increasing concern for struggling stocks of Northwest salmon. Scientists have shown that small amounts of pesticides can have a serious effect on their survival. Certain chemicals can impede a salmon's sense of smell, which they use to hunt, avoid predators, find the stream where they spawn and trigger the release of eggs or sperm.
Environmentalists sued the EPA almost three years ago for not doing enough to protect salmon from pesticides. A final ruling is pending, but this summer a federal judge in Seattle ordered that pesticide-free buffers be created temporarily on salmon streams.
"EPA has a terrible track record on the Endangered Species Act when it comes to pesticides," said Patti Goldman, a Seattle attorney with Earthjustice who wrote the letter to the EPA. She is also involved in the lawsuit.
The rule changes advocated by the task force would make things worse by eliminating oversight by other federal agencies and giving more power to the pesticide companies, she said.
Parsons said that isn't the case. While the system of consulting with other federal agencies on the impact of pesticides on endangered species "really wasn't working," the goal of the regulation change is to improve communication, he said. The intention is not to cut the other agencies out of the process.
"We will use all available information in our decisions," Parsons said.
The proposed rule changes should be made public in the next few weeks.
The 14 companies on the task force are regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, and the name of the task force is the FIFRA Endangered Species Task Force. Its members include agrochemical giants Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto, Bayer and DuPont.
It was created to provide the agency with data to determine how pesticides can be safely used around protected species.
But Goldman said the role of the task force has moved beyond that to an advisory position, violating strict federal laws designed to limit influence of special-interest groups.
Pesticides Disrupt How Salmon Smell by Lisa Stiffler, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 8/1/00
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