The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to complete its strategy to address the impact of herbicides on endangered species by May 2024. 

In a settlement approved in federal court Tuesday, the agency also promised to finish a similar strategy for insecticides by early 2025 and committed to evaluate the impacts of eight organophosphate insecticides on federally listed species by 2027.

In all, the “landmark legal settlement” covers more than 300 pesticide active ingredients, the Center for Biological Diversity said in a news release. CBD and Pesticide Action Network North America brought the case against EPA in 2011; CropLife America intervened and is also a signatory to the settlement approved by U.S. District Judge Joseph Spero of the Northern District of California.

In the settlement, CLA agreed to hold a workshop examining how to mitigate the effects of pesticides on species.

CLA CEO Chris Novak said the settlement “represents another important step in EPA’s work to improve the ESA review process for pesticide registration decisions. We appreciate the engagement on these improvements and will continue to work with stakeholders as the process continues.”

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Using “offsets” as a synonym for mitigation, the settlement says, “[O]ffsets may assist EPA in meeting its [Endangered Species Act] obligations in cases where effects of pesticide registrations cannot reasonably be avoided or minimized [and] could include … measures intended to replace or provide substitute resources or environments for ESA-listed species through the restoration, establishment, enhancement, or preservation of resources or environments.”

The eight organophosphates to be evaluated include acephate, bensulide, dimethoate, ethoprop, naled, phorate, phosmet, and S,S,S-tributyl phosphorotrithioate (tribufos).

EPA also agreed to complete biological evaluations on the following rodenticides: brodifacoum, bromadiolone, warfarin, zinc phosphide, chlorophacinone, diphacinone (and its sodium salt), difenacoum, difethialone, bromethalin, cholecalciferol, and strychnine. 

The settlement is another step in EPA’s effort to address compliance under the Endangered Species Act, which requires consultation between federal agencies and the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service in actions that may affect endangered species.

For decades, EPA essentially ignored that requirement when it came to registering pesticides. But then CBD, in particular, began suing to enforce the ESA consultation requirement, resulting in court decisions slamming EPA for not complying with the ESA.

EPA released an overall strategy last year; in June, the agency rolled out a pilot program to protect 27 listed species. A July draft herbicide strategy attempts to streamline consultations.

Also last year, EPA said it would analyze the impacts of new pesticide active ingredients on endangered species before registering them.

“After decades of inaction in the face of terrible harms, the EPA is now committed to much needed actions to protect endangered species, and with the judicial oversight necessary to ensure that changing political winds don’t wipe out lifesaving progress,” said Jonathan Evans, CBD's environmental health legal director.

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