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Bush Administration Eases Pesticide Rules
(Beyond Pesticides, Aug 3, 2004) According to The Seattle Times and Environment News Service, on July 29, 2004 the Bush administration said it would no longer require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to first consult other agencies to see if a certain pesticide would be harmful to endangered species. This makes it easier for the EPA to approve pesticides used commercially and non-commercially and proposes a greater danger to the plants and animals on the endangered species list.

The Endangered Species Act protects about 1,200 threatened animals and plants. The federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 requires the EPA to consult with federal fishery and wildlife agencies concerning the registration of pesticides that might potentially harm protected species, a complex task involving hundreds of chemicals. Over the past few decades, few of those reviews ever got done.

Federal officials are marketing the change by saying that it is a more efficient way to ensure that species are protected across the country. However, conservationists are wary of the true effect of the change. They believe that it will most likely result in the relaxation of the criteria needed to protect endangered species such as the Northwest salmon, which are harmed by low levels of some pesticides.

The EPA will do its own review of pesticides and the risk they pose to the environment, including endangered species. However, conservationists say that these reviews will not be as thorough and won't have the same stringent criteria are those by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Conservationists point to a draft letter that the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration sent to the EPA which challenged an EPA finding that 29 pesticides were not likely to harm protected salmon runs. Erika Schreder of the Washington Toxics Coalition said, "The EPA's science is not the best available science" and "And the administration is trying to get away with not finding harm by not using the science that would find the harm."

According to Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity, "As a result of the EPA's subservience to the pesticide industry there is currently very little oversight of widely used chemicals that hit the market" and "Industry already effectively controls both the registration process and scientific research" and "The Bush administration's outrageous proposal to allow the EPA to further circumvent the consultation process is the equivalent of handing control of the Department of Health to the tobacco industry."

According to Environment News Service, "sixty-six members of the House of Representatives, all Democrats, sent a letter opposing the new regulations to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who has oversight over the Fish and Wildlife Service, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, who oversees NOAA Fisheries, and EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt."

Acccording to Environment News Serivce, the wildlife agencies said they would perform periodic reviews of the process by which EPA arrives at their determinations of which pesticides to approve to ensure EPA is making determinations that are consistent with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

TAKE ACTION: Write to the Bush Administration at president@whitehouse.gov and Mike Leavitt, EPA administrator and tell then that you oppose the change made and support the checks and balances that the Endangered Species Act provides against the destruction of endangered plants and animals by harmful pesticides.