EPA hosts meeting on improving ESA consultation on pesticides
Fulfilling a provision in the 2018 farm bill, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler today hosted a discussion on improving the Endangered Species Act consultation process used to evaluate the impacts pesticides have on endangered species under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.
Taking part were Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, and Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Mary Neumayr.
EPA has also scheduled a public meeting Monday for stakeholders to present their views on the Trump administration’s stated commitment to streamline the process.
The Cabinet-level officials made opening statements during a session that was open to the press. The meeting then was closed for discussion, including staff.
USDA General Counsel Stephen Vaden, Chief of Staff Joby Young and Sheryl Kunickis, director of the USDA Office of Pest Management Policy, accompanied Perdue to the meeting.
“The Trump administration is committed to carrying out the important responsibilities of the Endangered Species Act to protect and promote the recovery of species while recognizing that pesticides are a critical tool for protecting public health, supporting our farmers, and ensuring an abundant food supply,” Wheeler said.
“The goal of our working group is a streamlined ESA consultation process that is protective of species, timely for pesticide registration review decisions, and transparent to the public.”
Perdue noted that the meeting is the first since the working group was “codified,” and that the consultations on pesticides and ESA are among the concerns of farmers.
Acknowledging that there has often been disagreement among scientists from different agencies over the impact of pesticides on listed endangered species, Perdue said that when scientists disagree there should be peer view and that should lead to consensus.
It is important that the Trump administration “give clear direction” on the use of pesticides, he said.
“We’ve been talking for months about this. Time is of the essence,” Perdue said.
USDA will contribute data from National Agricultural Statistics Service to the process that is “real scientific data … that will stand up to any peer review,” he said.
USDA’s Office of Pest Management Policy will be “ever available” to help with the process, he added.
Bernhardt noted that the FIFRA regulations were written in 1986 when roads going through refuges were considered the problem, but that the issue has become much more complex.
Interior’s regulatory update will include updating the ranges in which endangered species live, he said.
The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Marine Fisheries Service will collaborate on issues involving fish, Ross said.
Court rulings play a major role in the regulation of pesticides related to endangered species, he noted.