Stakeholders Provide Feedback for US EPA’s Draft Biological Evaluations for Endangered Species
-During June of 2016, Dow AgroSciences, CropLife America, and many other stakeholders submitted comments to U.S. EPA concerning the Agency’s publication of the first draft of a precedent-setting endangered species assessment. Comments were submitted in response to the EPA’s release on April 6 of first-ever, national-scale biological evaluations for potential impact of pesticides on endangered species, which focused on the insecticides chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion. In publishing the draft BE’s for public comment, EPA noted that it had sought to follow recommendations of a 2013 National Academy of Science report which provided guidance to the Agency on potential improvements to its Endangered Species Act consultation process with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Once the BE’s are finalized by EPA, the consultation process will move to the next step which involves preparation of “biological opinions” by USFWS and NMFS, expected to be released for comment during 2017.
Unfortunately, EPA’s approach to the national-scale biological evaluations for these three insecticides was plagued by many of the same errors and deficiencies which have been associated with the Agency’s multiple attempts over the past 30 years at completing endangered species assessments for pesticides. The assessment approach employed by EPA was so highly conservative that possible risks were flagged for the use of these pesticides concerning nearly every threatened and endangered animal and plant species. As pointed out by comments submitted by CropLife America, flaws in EPA’s approach included:
- Use of unrealistic assumptions;
- Incorrect or irrelevant endpoints;
- Modeling design and errors;
- Failing to take advantage of best available biological information that would produce more realistic exposure estimates that are relevant to the species being assessed;
- Numerous examples of insufficient information; and
- Lack of support to enable reviewers to understand how model input values were selected.
In response to the EPA’s draft biological evaluation of chlorpyrifos, specific comments submitted by Dow AgroSciences pointed out the many problematic assumptions included in EPA’s work on this product. In addition, a number of suggestions for improving EPA’s assessment approach, including an example case study, were also submitted to EPA for consideration.
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