A U.S. District Court judge in California has ruled that two environmental activist groups did not prove the EPA awarded federal registrations for a host of crop protection chemicals that put endangered species at risk in a lawsuit they filed in 2011.

In granting a motion to dismiss the groups’ “Mega” lawsuit, Judge Joseph C. Spero said the plaintiffs – the Center for Biological Diversity and the Pesticide Action Network North America – had not alleged specific government actions sufficient for the lawsuit to proceed.

The judge gave the plaintiffs 30 days to file an amended complaint or 60 days to appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, said the two organizations were weighing their options but had not decided on a response.

The CBD and PANNA lawsuit claimed the registration by EPA of more than 380 chemicals without consultations with other agencies could negatively impact 214 endangered species in 49 states.

CropLife America, an umbrella organization representing many of the nation’s largest pesticide manufacturers, and EPA filed the motion to dismiss the lawsuit. “The complaint was certainly too vague and missed the mark on a host of legal factors,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CLA.

The National Corn Growers Association, which also asked to intervene in the case, called its dismissal a “sweeping victory for growers.

Products deemed safe

“Many farmers were faced with the possibility of major restrictions on previously approved crop protection products,” NCGA President Pam Johnson said. “This offers reassurance to America's farmers that they are free to use products that have been deemed safe by the EPA.”

 

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The suit, which was filed in January 2011, specifically alleged that the agency failed to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service on hundreds of pesticide registrations potentially affecting hundreds of species.

The lawsuit requested the court apply “appropriate restrictions on the use of pesticides where they may affect endangered and threatened species and critical habitats” until consultations had been completed and the product registrations were in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

If successful, these "appropriate restrictions" could have resulted in the imposition of buffers zones and other product use restrictions that had the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of land available to agriculture while doing little to protect threatened species and their habitat, according to Johnson. One of the products that could have been affected was atrazine, a major corn herbicide.

Vroom said environmental groups such as PANNA and the Center for Biological Diversity have been challenging crop protection product registrations based on alleged Endangered Species Act violations for more than a decade.