DC, June 18, 2004 (ENS): A letter signed by
66 members of the House of Representatives urges the
Bush administration to withdraw proposed regulations
that the lawmakers warn would undermine the Endangered
Species Act and negatively impact endangered wildlife,
farmworker safety, and human health.
Spearheaded by Congressman Raúl Grijalva, an
Arizona Democrat, the letter asks Interior Secretary
Gale Norton and Michael Leavitt, administrator of the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to halt
a proposal limiting public and scientific participation
in the approval of pesticide use.
The proposed rule change would allow the EPA to approve
pesticide use without consulting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service about potential harms to imperiled species,
and give the chemical industry special participation
rights not shared by the public or the workers who are
exposed to these chemicals. Such consultations are required
under the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of
plants and animals, but Grijalva says they also benefit
“The proposal is particularly troubling to me
because it seeks to remove one of the most effective
mechanisms for imposing constraints on the use of harmful
pesticides,” said Grijalva. “The easing
of these restrictions on pesticides would be particularly
harmful to the public health of farm workers and their
The EPA estimates that pesticides poison 10,000 to
20,000 agricultural workers each year. Buffer zones
around spray areas designed to protect nearby species
provide critically needed protections to farm workers
and their children who live near and play in treated
farms and orchards.
“It is our responsibility as members of Congress
to speak out against the Bush administration’s
agenda to dismantle the laws and regulations that protect
our environment and our public health,”said Grijalva.
“These proposed regulations are a step backward
for both wildlife and farm worker protections."
California conservation groups support the Congressional
letter, released Monday. California groups are concerned
that the proposed regulations would threaten Endangered
Species Act protections being sought throughout the
state for the California red-legged frog in a matter
currently pending in Federal District Court in San Francisco.
"The Bush administration prefers to pad the chemical
industry's pocketbook at the expense of the California
red-legged frog, worker safety, and human health,"
said Brent Plater, staff attorney with the Center for
Biological Diversity, who brought the case to protect
the California red-legged frog from illegal pesticide
Plater says consultations among agency experts are
"essential" before approving pesticide use
"because scientists from around the country have
recently discovered that the impacts of pesticides on
imperiled species are compounded by the presence of
predators and other environmental stressors, factors
that can only be adequately assessed in conjunction
with biologists from federal wildlife agencies."
In similar proceedings, the Federal District Court
in Seattle ruled in 2002 and 2004 to protect endangered
salmon from illegal pesticide use, responding to evidence
that pesticides pollute salmon streams and that the
Bush administration had failed to protect the species.