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EPA Slammed for Failure to Regulate Dangerous Pesticides

July 26, 2004
Groups accuse EPA of doing shoddy job gauging pesticide risks


SEATTLE -- Conservation and fisheries groups gave the government two months'
notice on Monday that they plan to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency unless it does a better job gauging the risks various pesticides pose
to salmon in the Pacific Northwest.

In a letter sent to EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt, lawyers with the
environmental defense firm Earthjustice said the agency failed to use the
best available science when it concluded that more than three dozen
pesticides either would not harm or would not likely harm threatened and
endangered salmon runs.

Earthjustice, which is representing the Washington Toxics Coalition, Pacific
Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations and other groups, cited an
April 2004 draft letter from NOAA Fisheries - the federal agency in charge
of restoring salmon - saying it did not support EPA's findings.

"Pesticides are deadly by design and they'll kill baby salmon after they
wash off fields, orchards and lawns into salmon streams," Earthjustice
lawyer Patti Goldman said. "EPA's job is to regulate their use so they don't
violate the Endangered Species Act, but their own sister agency in the
federal government has found them miserably failing at (the) obligation."

NOAA Fisheries spokesman Brian Gorman stressed that the letter was merely a
draft and was never sent to the EPA. He said the fisheries agency is working
with the EPA "to determine the safety and proper use of these pesticides.

"We have no issues as far as I can tell with EPA about our mutual goals,"
Gorman said. "It's not like we're in a food fight with the EPA."

A call to EPA headquarters was not returned Monday, and Bill Dunbar, a
spokesman in the agency's Seattle office, said he could not comment.

Erika Schreder, a staff scientist with the Washington Toxics Coalition, said
she's troubled that NOAA Fisheries isn't standing by the statements made in
the draft letter.

"What we've seen is a pattern of the higher-ups basically quashing what the
scientists are saying," Schreder said.

The EPA is in the midst of studying the potential risks some 54 pesticides
might pose to salmon in rivers throughout Washington, Oregon and Northern

In January, a federal judge in Seattle issued a temporary ban on the use of
38 pesticides near salmon streams throughout the region, pending a final
decision in a lawsuit that environmental groups filed alleging even tiny
amounts of toxins in rivers harm salmon.

U.S. District Judge John Coughenour barred the use of the pesticides - from
agricultural sprays to household weed-killers - within 20 yards of
salmon-bearing streams until the EPA determined whether they would likely
harm protected fish. He also banned the aerial spraying of pesticides within
100 yards of streams, except for public health reasons like controlling

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected appeals filed by a coalition
of industry groups that sought to block that order. CropLife America, a
trade group representing pesticide makers and farm groups, argued the
buffers could cost farmers in Oregon and Washington as much as $100 million.

Environmental groups have called that an exaggeration, saying farmers can
keep farming using chemical and chemical-free substitutes.


On the Net:


Washington Toxics Coalition:

Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations: