On Aug. 3, EPA, USDA, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) (the latter two together, “the Services”) announced proposed revisions to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) consultation process as it relates to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) Registration Review process.

Under FIFRA Section 3(g), EPA is required to review all registered pesticides every 15 years and confirm (based on the available science) that they continue to pose no unreasonable risks to human health, workers or the environment when used according to product labeling. ESA Section 7(a)(2) requires each federal agency to ensure that their proposed action (pesticide registration is considered a federal action) “is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species." If EPA determines that a pesticide under review may affect a listed threatened or endangered species, EPA is required to engage in a consultation process with the Services to assess the risk and implement risk mitigation measures.

In the past, EPA had assumed that its ESA obligations were satisfied by the extensive risk assessments it required for pesticide registrations. A lawsuit by anti-pesticide groups in the Northwest changed that assumption when the judge ruled that EPA was in violation of the ESA and was required to consult with the Services when registering a pesticide. The consultation process has proved to be too lengthy and inaccurate. The purpose of this current proposal is to facilitate a more streamlined and efficient process.

(For more, see: Endangered Species Act a federal land grab?)

The proposal’s highlights include:

· Emphasis on coordination across federal agencies;

· Expanded role for USDA and the pesticide user community in providing current pesticide use information to inform and refine EPA’s ecological risk assessments;

· “Focus” meetings at the start of registration review for each pesticide active ingredient, to clarify current uses and label directions and consider the potential for early risk reduction;

· Formal ESA consultations later in the registration review process, allowing time to engage stakeholders in the development of more refined ecological risk assessments and more focused consultation packages including mitigation for listed species;

· Outreach to potentially affected pesticide users to discuss the technical and economic feasibility of suggested mitigation measures intended to avoid jeopardy to threatened and/or endangered species; and

· Improved coordination between EPA, USDA and the Services.

The proposal is at: www.epa.gov/oppfead1/cb/csb_page/updates/2012/ espp-stakeholder.html. EPA soon will publish a notice in the Federal Register announcing a 60-day public comment period for the proposal.