Environmental groups sue the EPA to save species
Laws protecting endangered species and regulating pesticides could drastically change because of a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency.
This story was originally reported by PRI's Living on Earth. For more, listen to the audio above.
Two environmental organizations have launched a federal lawsuit designed to protect over two hundred endangered species from commonly used pesticides. The Center for Biologicial Diversity and Pesticide Action Network charge that the U.S. EPA has violated the Endangered Species Act. The groups allege the EPA was required to consult with other federal agencies regarding the impacts of pesticides on threatened species - but never did.
"This lawsuit could have very significant nation-wide consequences," lawyer and blogger Keith Rizzardi told PRI's Living on Earth. It "could indeed lead to a significant re-write of the way that many of our pesticides are used."
"The Environmental Protection Agency is not the ultimate authority on threatened and endangered species," according to Rizzardi. "The consulting agencies are the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service." And the EPA is likely operating under the rules set out by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.
What this lawsuit says, however, is that the EPA should be doing more. It should have been consulting with other agencies.
Environmental groups have brought lawsuits against the EPA before. Rizzardi says, "it happened with the California gnat catcher, it also happened with Pacific Northwest salmonid species." And in those cases, the environmental groups either won, or the case was settled.
What this case points to is the evolution of the endangered species act, according to Rizzardi. A law that was meant to be a "Noah's Ark of environmental law" is morphing into a way to influence policy in the absence of other reforms.
Opponents of the law are crying foul. The Executive Director of the Kansas Corngrowers Association said the lawsuit is "more of an assault on modern agriculture than it is about protection of endangered species." But if environmental groups have their way, the lawsuit could significantly change the way pesticides are used in the United States and possibly protect endangered species at the same time.
Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More about "Living on Earth."