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EPA Sued for Secret Pact with Chemical Companies

EPA Sued for Illegally Taking Direction from Chemical Industry Group

Earthjustice | Press Release

Thursday 15 January 2004

Industry group cutting wildlife experts out of inner circle deciding
pesticide policy

Seattle, WA-- Conservation and pesticide-watchdog groups today filed a
lawsuit to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from giving illegal
special access to a group of chemical corporations. Documents obtained
under the Freedom of Information Act and other sources reveal that the
corporate insider group has met regularly with EPA officials in secret and
has urged EPA to weaken endangered species protections from pesticides. The
case was filed in federal district court in Seattle Washington.

The chemical companies are pushing EPA to weaken pesticide safeguards
by cutting expert biologists in the US Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA
Fisheries out of consultations determining the effects of pesticides on
wildlife. At the companies' urging, EPA has starting a rulemaking to
reserve authority over such evaluations to itself.

"EPA is letting the pesticide industry have inside influence over the
fate of endangered species poisoned by toxic pesticides," said Patti
Goldman of Earthjustice, which brought the lawsuit on behalf of the
conservation and watchdog groups.

Federal law prohibits the government from using and meeting in secret
with such insider groups. Congress has established good government
standards that prevent secret and one-sided advisory bodies of wealthy
special interests. The Federal Advisory Committee Act prohibits the federal
government from obtaining advice from committees comprised of only the
regulated industry. That act also requires that the meetings of advisory
groups be open to the public.

"EPA has an open door policy to the biggest chemical companies in
America while excluding the rest of us," said Mike Senatore of Defenders of
Wildlife. "That's not right. In America all voices are supposed to be
heard, not just wealthy interests that make campaign contributions."

In 2000, EPA established this chemical industry group, known as the
FIFRA Endangered Species Task Force, to develop data disclosing the
locations of endangered species. The task force is comprised of 14
agro-chemical companies. It meets regularly with EPA officials in closed
meetings and has no public-interest representatives. Over the past year,
the chemical industry task force has shifted its efforts away from
generating data to advocating that EPA circumvent the Endangered Species
Act for pesticide uses that harm federally protected species. It has become
the chief proponent of new pesticide regulations that would eliminate
expert oversight over species protections. In early 2003, EPA announced its
plan to issue such regulations, and it plans to propose new rules soon.

"For years, EPA has flouted its obligation to protect endangered
species from pesticides," said Aaron Colangelo of Natural Resources Defense
Council. "Now that the courts are directing EPA to comply with its duties,
the pesticide industry and the Bush administration have come up with a new
trick for delaying species protections."

The lawsuit asks the court to order EPA to commit to bring its actions
into compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Natural Resources
Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of
Wildlife, Washington Toxics Coalition, and Northwest Coalition for
Alternatives to Pesticides, represented by Earthjustice, filed the lawsuit.



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