New rule could rein in oversight for endangered species

The timing is truly mind-boggling.

Last night, in this blog, I wrote about an eight-year legal battle by environmental groups to get the federal government to examine the true hazards of insecticides on salmon. (See entry below this one.)

In this morning’s Kitsap Sun, I noticed an Associated Press article by Dina Cappiello that talks about eliminating a portion of the Endangered Species Act that made this process possible.

A draft of the rule that Cappiello talked about has not been made public. It’s pretty technical and we should wait for the specific rule to be published. But it looks like federal agencies proposing certain actions would be allowed to do their own analysis with little or no interference from the agencies assigned to protect endangered species.

So what would be wrong with the Environmental Protection Agency examining the effects of pesticides on salmon without further review by the National Marine Fisheries Service?

According to federal biologists, the EPA has adopted protocols for reviewing chemicals as they go on the market.

“They (EPA scientists) have a pretty rigorous set way they analyze the chemicals,” Jim Lecky of NMFS told me last week. “We have taken that information ourselves and used it in our analysis.”

Lecky, who is director of the Office of Protected Resources of NMFS, said the EPA uses surrogates to represent a group of species. For example, rainbow trout was the surrogate for salmon.

“Our mission is to look at endangered and threatened species,” Lecky said. “EPA extrapolates from rainbow trout to chinook salmon. We go a little further and try to find additional effects. I think we have identified the best available information.”

Patti Goldman of Earthjustice reminded me that five years ago the EPA said in its first review of pesticides that the chemicals would have little or no effect on salmon. If the proposed rule had been in effect, EPA may have escaped further analysis of its findings.

It took two lawsuits by environmental groups as well as scientists in a separate federal agency to finally give status to the idea that pesticides on the market, as used today, pose a serious risk to endangered salmon.

One thought on “New rule could rein in oversight for endangered species

  1. “…finally give status to the idea that pesticides on the market, as used today, pose a serious risk to endangered salmon….”

    How could they not pose a serious risk to all species of fish – in addition to salmon?

    Trouble is the pesticide market is huge, lots of dollars, lots of political lobbying dollars spent … I’m rather surprised it has only taken eight years to bring to the public eye … a public eye that may scoff at the notion that pesticide use may be injurious to our waterways and those creatures who live within…
    Sharon O’Hara

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