Injunction banning pesticides near salmon streams upheld

SEATTLE, Washington, May 20, 2004 (ENS): A federal district court in Seattle has denied a motion to suspend its January 2004 injunction prohibiting the spraying of certain pesticides near salmon streams. The pesticide industry association CropLife and grower groups had requested a stay that would allow presticide applications while they appeal the district court's ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The January injunction put in place no-spray zones of 100 yards for aerial applications and 20 yards for ground applications of more than 30 pesticides. The injunction also required in-store warnings to inform consumers that seven pesticides used in urban areas may harm salmon.

Chief Judge John Coughenour of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a strongly worded opinion Wednesday denying the industry request for a stay and underlining the need for the injunction’s protections for threatened and endangered salmon.

His order states, "in enacting the ESA [Endangered Species Act], Congress expressly preferred the preservation of endangered species, deprived of the ability to protect themselves against the perpetual technological crusade of ever-expanding humankind, over the preservation of chemicals that have the potential to make extinction of these species imminent."

Judge Coughenour also blamed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its lack of compliance with the law that made the injunction necessary, and for its poor communication to pesticide users about the injunction’s requirements.

The judge wrote, "if EPA had expended as much effort in compliance with the ESA as it has expended in resisting this action, the lawsuit might have been unnecessary."

"The Court again emphasizes that because the January 22, 2004 Order enjoined EPA from authorizing the unrestricted application of certain pesticide active ingredients, it is EPA's duty to provide individual pesticide users with comprehensive instructions as to the Order's scope," the judge directed.

The injunction was issued as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Washington Toxics Coalition, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, and Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, with representation by Earthjustice. The EPA and pesticide companies appealed the ruling to the Ninth Circuit, but the injunction will now stay in place throughout the appeals process.

The fishing and environmental groups that won the injunction were relieved. "Judge Coughenour made a very common sense decision to deny the stay. These are not 'harmless' compounds’ as the chemical industry claimed, but highly toxic poisons that have no business in our waterways and salmon spawning beds," said Glen Spain of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA), one of the plaintiff groups, representing the commercial fishing industry.

"All the judge's original order ever did was to help keep these chemicals out of waterways and where they belong. Farmers have plenty of alternatives to dumping toxic chemicals into rivers and killing fish."

Patti Goldman of Earthjustice represented the groups. "Big chemical companies said the sky was falling back in the days when DDT was banned to save bald eagles. Everyone knows they were wrong then and they're wrong now when they say the sky is falling because their chemicals need to be applied more carefully to avoid killing salmon."

The January injunction followed Judge Coughenour's 2002 decision that found the EPA out of compliance with the Endangered Species Act for failing to protect salmon from pesticides. The judge ordered the EPA to consult with NOAA Fisheries to establish permanent restrictions needed to protect salmon from 54 pesticides, over a two and a half year timeline.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All Rights Reserved.

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