the film
Commentaries and editorials

Coalition Tries to Block Court Order on Pesticides

by Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer - March 18, 2004

Group says January ruling is unnecessary, won't help salmon

EUGENE, Ore. -- A coalition of pesticide makers and farm groups in Oregon, Washington and California yesterday sought to block implementation of a federal court order banning the use of some pesticides along salmon streams pending an appeal.

The coalition filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Seattle to block a recent court order banning the use of cholorothalonil and dozens of other toxic pesticides along thousands of miles of salmon-bearing waterways, said Heather Hansen of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests.

"We are very concerned about not only the damage the order will do to agriculture in Washington and Oregon," Hansen said from her office in Olympia. "We also think it is unnecessary and is not going to do anything to help salmon."

In January in Seattle, a federal judge restricted the use of 38 pesticides near salmon streams in Washington, Oregon and California based on a lawsuit brought by environmental groups arguing that even tiny amounts of chemicals in rivers harm salmon.

Judge John Coughenour barred the use of the pesticides -- ranging from agricultural sprays to some household weed-killers -- within 20 yards of the waters until the Environmental Protection Agency determines whether they are likely to harm protected fish.

He also banned aerial spraying of the pesticides, except for public health reasons such as controlling mosquitoes, within 100 yards.

The coalition appealing the ruling includes CropLife America, a trade group representing pesticide makers such as Bayer, Dow and Monsanto, and farm groups.

Seema Mahini, a CropLife lawyer, said the order irreparably harms growers.

A federal study estimates the buffers will force some producers to remove crops near streams, costing farmers in Oregon and Washington $100 million.

That's an exaggeration, environmental groups charge, because farmers can keep on farming using other chemicals and chemical-free substitutes.

Aimee Code, a water-quality coordinator at the Eugene-based Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, said she hopes the ruling prompts farmers to use less-toxic methods.

"If we're going to be growing within 20 yards of a river, we need to be thinking of how we're treating that specific area," she said.

But in most cases, the alternatives are less effective or more expensive, Mahini said.

The EPA has not decided which side to join over the appeal.

"The Department of Justice and federal government are still exploring their legal options," said Arty Williams, chief of the environmental field branch in EPA's pesticides office.

Because of the order, farmers are now switching to other, often more expensive chemicals, as they sift through the complicated layers of rules.

So far, though, little effort has been made to enforce the ban, and many homeowners haven't even heard about it.

"Who is even going to be able to figure this out to be able to enforce it?" asked Ross Penhallegon, horticulturist with the Lane County Extension Service. "Boy, that's a lot of streams," he added. "Who's even going to be out there looking around?"

Consumer awareness probably will rise when court-mandated "salmon hazard" warnings appear by April 5 at lawn-and-garden stores in some cities. The judge ordered the EPA to develop the warning for products with seven specific pesticides.

The warning will state: "This product contains pesticides that may harm salmon or steelhead. Use of this product in urban areas can pollute salmon streams."

Associated Press
Coalition Tries to Block Court Order on Pesticides
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, March 18, 2004

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation