The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be addressing the overall pesticide approval system through a comprehensive workplan. Four overall strategies are established in the plan, with dozens of actions to provide for new pesticide registrations while adhering to obligations under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). EPA points out that the current system for registering pesticides while protecting endangered species is “unsustainable and legally tenuous” without corrective action.
“Today’s workplan serves as the blueprint for how EPA will create an enduring path to meet its goals of protecting endangered species and providing all people with safe, affordable food and protection from pests,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a news release. “The workplan reflects EPA’s collaboration with other federal agencies and commitment to listening to stakeholders about how they can work with the Agency to solve this longstanding challenge.”
Registration of pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) has proved cumbersome in relation to ESA obligations. EPA noted the agency has traditionally only met ESA duties in less than five percent of FIFRA decisions. As a result, EPA is facing more than 20 lawsuits. A decline in staffing in the Office of Pesticide Programs and increasingly litigious environmental groups have further complicated the registration process for pesticides. More than 50 pesticide ingredients impacting more than 1,000 products currently have court-enforceable deadlines for ESA compliance, or are currently involved in litigation.
EPA will be working to better prioritize ESA obligations through the workplan. A second part of the strategy includes improvements to identifying and requiring ESA protections. The workplan also aims to streamline the ESA consultation process for pesticides through better coordination with other federal agencies. Finally, EPA plants to improve the pesticide approval process through better engagement with stakeholders to increase understanding of common practices to better address species protection.