August 9, 2011: Markey and Napolitano Call on EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service To Protect U.S. Waters

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, and Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), the Ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Water and Power, sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service urging adoption of new measures to help protect endangered species as the federal government develops rules governing the spraying of pesticides directly into U.S. waters. These new rules would apply to issuance of a Pesticide General Permit (PGP), which would be the first of its kind in the history of the Clean Water Act and would impose limits on the amount of pesticides that enter our streams, rivers, and lakes. The permit applies only to pesticide used in tribal lands and 7 states and territories (Vt., Del., Idaho, Wash., Mass., N.H. and D.C.).
Action by the EPA cannot come soon enough given that pesticide levels exceed at least one EPA standard for aquatic life in 75 percent of all urban streams,” said Rep. Markey “Unfortunately, these first steps taken by the EPA to control pesticide discharges into U.S. waters do not go far enough to protect water quality and continue to leave wildlife at risk.”
“We must be cognizant that self-policing and self-reporting are not enough to ensure our health and safety when it comes to pesticides,” said Rep. Napolitano. “When these powerful chemicals enter our streams and rivers, they can cause health problems and threaten the fish and wildlife that live downstream. The EPA must act to minimize these risks and see that polluters are held responsible when they endanger the health of the general public.”
A copy of the letter to the EPA can be found HERE .
A copy of the letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service can be found HERE .
Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the EPA is required to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) whenever its actions could cause harm to an endangered species. Fulfilling this ESA obligation, the EPA entered into a consultation with NMFS to determine if the Pesticide General Permit would harm endangered species. The NMFS found that the permit as written would threaten the existence of 33 endangered species, including Atlantic and Pacific salmon, and recommended three basic measures that would mediate the impact of the permit. These measures include annual reporting from applicators that discharge pesticides into U.S. waters, monitoring for pesticides in habitats of endangered species, and identification of the pesticides covered by the PGP that would cause the most severe adverse impacts to endangered species. EPA has received these recommendations and is currently in the process of finalizing the permit that should be published this fall. Reps. Markey and Napolitano’s letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson urged adoption of measures that would better protect endangered or threatened species from being killed by pesticides sprayed directly into our rivers, streams or lakes.
Reps. Markey and Napolitano also sent a letter to FWS Director Dan Ashe urging his agency to weigh in on the impacts the Pesticide General Permit may have on endangered freshwater species of fish. Despite receiving notice from the EPA requesting a consultation over a year ago, the FWS has yet to complete a consultation and is therefore not complying with its obligation under the ESA. Without FWS input, the EPA will be unable to modify the Pesticide General Permit even though freshwater endangered species may be harmed.
“As American families escape the heat of summer with visits to our nation’s lakes and rivers, they should not have to worry whether the river they swim in or the fish they catch and eat are laden with toxic pesticides,” said Rep. Markey. “We cannot turn a blind eye to water pollution when it jeopardizes the sizeable economic benefits of clean water and healthy wildlife populations – particularly when it comes to animals that are already being threatened with extinction. Every agency in the federal government should do its part to ensure that our most vulnerable species are protected.”
Fishing and water-based recreation generates tens of billions of dollars in economic activity throughout the nation. In an average year, over 28 million Americans will go freshwater fishing, spending over $30 billion on travel and equipment. In the Northwest, the commercial salmon fisheries support thousands of jobs. It is estimated that restoring endangered salmon populations in the Northwest alone could yield annual economic benefits of over $5 billion.