EPA Steps Up to the ESA Plate

Jan 25, 2022

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is opening a once-blind eye to its responsibility to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and it has farmers raising an eyebrow.

Why now? The EPA gets to determine whether active ingredients (AI) could be harmful to ESA species. In the past, they haven’t consistently reviewed the impacts of AIs on threatened species. The results haven’t been great.

“This [lack of review] resulted in insufficient protections from new AIs for listed species, as well as resource-intensive litigation against EPA for registering new AIs prior to assessing potential effects on listed species,” according to the new policy announcement.

Tangent: This follows the EPA re-approving Enlist and Enlist Duo for seven more years, complying with ESA and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). But—and it’s a big one—the approval comes with new asterisks for risk mitigation and bans the chemicals for farmers in specific counties where the ESA risks are higher.

Where this goes: The EPA will conduct biological evaluations on every new pesticide registered, and if likely to impact an ESA species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service may propose measures to reduce risk, called “reasonable and product alternatives (RPAs).” (Because this story really needed another acronym). 

Every pesticide that goes through the re-registration process will also be evaluated and subject to new label restrictions, such as county bans or spraying limitations.