EPA Ordered to Conduct a Review of Toxic Fungicide Approval

On Monday, the Ninth Circuit ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review the harm that can be caused to certain endangered species by an allegedly toxic fungicide. The EPA must conduct the review by June 2023.

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety had petitioned the EPA to review an order they had approved that effectively registered the fungicide inpyrfluxam. The order claimed that the EPA had failed to make an effects determination under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and had also failed to consult with federal wildlife agencies about their approval of the allegedly toxic and harmful fungicide.

The petitioners had asked the Court to “impose on EPA a deadline to complete its effects determination and initiate consultation as necessary,” to which the EPA responded by asking for a voluntary remand. The request was granted by the Court.

The fungicide, known as inpyrfluxam, is widely used across the country on crops such as corn, soy, grains, beans, and more. In 2020, the EPA approved its use across the country despite research demonstrating that the fungicide had the capacity to be highly toxic to endangered species including salmon, steelhead, and whooping cranes. Further, inpyrfluxam has been proven to inhabit the environment it is released into for years after the release. An opinion held by the National Academy of Sciences urged the EPA to develop a more exhaustive process by which they would analyze the risk that certain fungicides posed to endangered species.

Jonathan Evans, the environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said that the decision “should send a clear message that the EPA can no longer ignore its duty to make sure new pesticides don’t push imperiled wildlife, like salmon, closer to extinction.”

Senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety Amy van Saun explained that the EPA needs to “stop rubberstamping these toxic pesticides [like inpyrfluxam] without meaningfully considering the costs and environmental harm.”

A “comprehensive workplan” was issued by the EPA in April. The initiative aims to address the ongoing challenge of curbing pesticide usage to protect endangered species. More recently, programs have been organized that intend to reform the pesticide-approval process in an effort to protect the Endangered Species Act from further violation.