CropLife America (CLA) filed a petition with the Department of the Interior and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) requesting improvements to the evaluation of federal agency actions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Specifically, the improvements would expand the role of the applicant during the consultation process for pesticide registration under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
CLA, and its members, have highlighted several problems in how the current ESA consultation process is conducted, most notably that the process is often delayed, not based on the “best scientific and commercial data available,” and often excluding entities with the most pertinent information, such as crop protection and public health product registrants. These problems result in flawed scientific analysis by the Services, and unnecessary litigation that prevent farmers and others from using vital crop protection and other essential products necessary to produce America’s food and fiber and serve other pubic needs.
The requested improvements would codify already existing guidance that is frequently ignored during ESA consultation and strengthen the role of applicants beyond what is presently provided in, but in a manner fully consistent with, the ESA and implementing regulations. The petition underscores the need for more structure in pesticide review under ESA. EPA and the Services, including NMFS and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), have vastly differing views on approaches to assessing risk and the current system must be revised to facilitate a more streamlined and transparent process with more input from applicants.
“Several court decisions and out-of-court settlements related to the failure of the agencies to comply with the consultation process have forced the EPA and the Services to conduct hasty and unsound consultations,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CLA. “Most often their decisions are based on outdated or incomplete information. It is CLA’s hope that our recommendations are considered so that all parties involved can have a voice in this important and necessary process.”
Among the improvements suggested by CLA, include making documents used by the Services during consultation, including documents and studies, available to the applicant; providing a role for the applicant in an informal consultation; and providing for a comment period following the required submission of the agency’s biological assessment to any state(s) affected by the agency action and the response by the Service to any state-written comments on the assessment.
Detailed information on the Endangered Species Act, including CLA’s position paper, can be found here.