Hearing Focuses on Environmental Data

Interagency review of pesticides and endangered species is examined by House committees.

Published on: May 4, 2011

The House Agriculture Committee and the House Committee on Natural Resources held a joint hearing Tuesday.  Under review was the questionable environmental data used in assessing potential harm to endangered species. According to Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the result has been that producers in the Pacific Northwest and California face a potential unprecedented restriction on the use of pesticide products labeled and registered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The committees reviewed pesticide registration consultations under the Endangered Species Act as they are carried out between the Environmental Protection Agency and either the National Marine Fisheries Services or the Fish and Wildlife Service.

House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas, R-Okla., complained that interagency pesticide reviews to protect endangered species are unwarranted and choke the courts with lawsuits by environmentalists. Lucas says EPA, the National Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service recently admitted their scientific models are flawed and they've asked the national academies of science to review the models.

USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber testified that economic analysis is lacking in the current agency review process used to form biological opinions and decisions on pesticides and endangered species.

According to Peterson, several opinions coming from the National Marine Fisheries Service fail to respond to and incorporate concerns voiced by EPA. He said - it’s important for these agencies to work collaboratively in reaching conclusions on complex issues.

In his prepared remarks, Peterson pointed out - when the agencies fail to be transparent and fail to base their conclusions on the best available science, the decision is often left in the hands of the courts, leaving those outside of agriculture to make a ruling. He said this should not be the case and someone needs to step up and resolve these issues. Perhaps this is something that Congress should address.