Apr 13, 2022EPA with new workplan to streamline pesticide registration, endangered species protection
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its first-ever comprehensive workplan to address the decades-old challenge of protecting endangered species from pesticides.
The plan establishes four overall strategies and dozens of actions to adopt those protections while providing farmers, public health authorities and others with access to pesticides.
“(The) workplan serves as the blueprint for how EPA will create an enduring path to meet its goals of protecting endangered species and providing all people with safe, affordable food and protection from pests,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “The workplan reflects EPA’s collaboration with other federal agencies and commitment to listening to stakeholders about how they can work with the Agency to solve this longstanding challenge.”
EPA has an opportunity and an obligation to improve how it meets its duties under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it registers pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). For most of EPA’s history, the Agency has met these duties for less than 5% of its FIFRA decisions. This has resulted in over 20 ESA lawsuits against the Agency, which have increased in frequency in recent years, creating uncertainty for farmers and other pesticide users, unnecessary expenses and inefficiencies for EPA, and delays in how EPA protects endangered species.
The new workplan is designed to help speed up the process of registering pesticides and to cut down on lawsuits.
EPA currently has over 50 pesticide ingredients, covering over 1,000 pesticide products, with court-enforceable deadlines to comply with the ESA or in pending litigation alleging ESA violations. Completing this work will take EPA past 2040, yet the work represents less than 5% of all the FIFRA decisions in the next decade for which ESA obligations exist. This is an unsustainable and legally tenuous situation, in which EPA’s schedule for meeting its ESA obligations has historically been determined through the courts. The workplan must provide a path for the Agency to meet those obligations on its own, thus protecting endangered species while supporting responsible pesticide use.
The workplan also sets a new vision for a successful ESA-FIFRA program that focuses on protecting species under the ESA, while minimizing regulatory impacts to pesticide users, supporting the development of safer technologies to control pests, completing timely FIFRA decisions, and collaborating with other agencies and stakeholders on implementing the plan.
The workplan describes four strategies and multiple actions to further the vision.
- A key strategy is for EPA to meet its ESA obligations for all FIFRA actions that invoke ESA. Because EPA does not have the capacity or scientific processes in place to meet all these obligations immediately, it has identified the FIFRA actions that are the highest priority for fulfilling its ESA obligations. These include actions with court-enforceable deadlines and new registrations of conventional pesticides.
- A second strategy is to improve approaches to identifying and requiring ESA protections, especially for species facing the greatest risk from pesticides.
- A third strategy is to improve the efficiency and timeliness of the ESA consultation process for pesticides, in coordination with other federal agencies.
- And the final strategy is to engage stakeholders more effectively, to better understand their pest control practices and implement species protection measures.
EPA needs the help of other federal agencies, state agencies, and stakeholders to implement these actions. Through the workplan, EPA is describing its future directions in the hope of collaborating with all these organizations on implementation. Over the coming months, EPA will engage with a wide range of stakeholders to identify opportunities for collaboration and will continue seeking input on more effective and efficient ways to meet its ESA obligations. The workplan is a living document that EPA will periodically revisit to incorporate lessons learned from implementation.