Environmental agency settles suit over endangered species

The Associated Press
Saturday April 20, 2002

SACRAMENTO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to consider for the first time in a decade how 18 commonly used pesticides may affect endangered salmon and woodland plants. 

Agency officials said they will conduct the review under a lawsuit settlement they will sign a Friday with three California environmental groups that sued over the EPA’s approval of the pesticides, which are used in fields, forests, orchards and to control weeds along highways and irrigation canals. 

Several million pounds of the pesticides are used each year on California almonds, walnuts, grapes, apples, lemons, plums, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli and rice, the environmental groups said, citing California Department of Pesticide Regulation statistics. Use is concentrated throughout the Central Valley and along much of the Pacific Coast. 

The EPA agreed to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service, and to analyze the pesticides’ effect on seven salmon species and 33 endangered forest plants. The agency also agreed to find ways to minimize the pesticides’ effects on the endangered species. 

“These species are close to extinction and pesticides continue to pollute their habitat, but the EPA hasn’t even begun to take action,” said Patty Clary of Californians for Alternatives to Toxics. CATS joined the Environmental Protection Information Center and Humboldt Watershed Council in the lawsuit. 

Three of the pesticides have been detected in waterways at levels that may be toxic to fish, the suit contends. They are carbaryl, used on apples, strawberries, tomatoes and lawns; chlorpyrifos, used on apples, broccoli, walnuts, almonds and lawns; and diazinon, used on lettuce, almonds and plums and lawns. 

The environmental groups argued EPA’s failure to consult with its fellow federal agencies on the pesticides’ effects violated the federal Endangered Species Act.