Endangered Species Act lawsuit dismissed

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The U.S. District Court of Northern California granted motions brought by both CropLife America (CLA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dismiss the lawsuit Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). U.S. District Judge Joseph C. Spero presided over the hearings in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) “Mega” lawsuit and ruled that plaintiffs had not alleged specific government actions sufficient for the lawsuit to proceed. Plaintiffs have 30 days to file an amended complaint in accordance with the court’s order, or 60 days to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The plaintiffs sought to restrict the use of valuable crop protection and public health products for American farmers and consumers by alleging that the existing and long-standing registration of more than 380 chemicals may negatively impact 214 species in 49 states. If the court had agreed to the full demands of the plaintiffs, agriculture and public health protection in the U.S. would have been drastically and negatively altered by attempts to impede pesticide registrations established under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

“CLA is pleased that the court granted the motions to dismiss the ‘Mega’ suit,” said Jay Vroom, president and CEO of CLA. “The complaint was certainly too vague and missed the mark on a host of legal factors. CLA and our industry remains committed to hearing the legitimate concerns of wildlife experts and considering ways we can continue to improve crop protection products and their uses to ensure that all wildlife species and their habitats are safe. Modern agriculture and wildlife can and do coexist. Through a combination of advanced science, careful stewardship by farmers, the focused attention of capable regulators and collaboration with wildlife stakeholders, we can continue to develop solutions for the betterment of both wildlife and farming outcomes.”

Rachel Lattimore, senior vice president and general counsel for CLA, added, “This significant decision paves the way for improvements to the ESA consultation process that can serve the needs of both endangered species and agriculture. This outcome re-affirms our government’s pesticide registration process under FIFRA and also the work of EPA in protecting threatened and endangered species.”

Joshua Saltzman, assistant general counsel for CLA, said, “For more than a decade, crop protection product registrations have been challenged based on alleged ESA violations. Other similar lawsuits are still pending and threatening to limit U.S. agricultural competitiveness by taking away reliable tools that benefit farmers with no demonstrated, commensurate harm to endangered species. We are hopeful that the dismissal of the 'Mega' suit will begin to move these important discussions out of the courtroom and into a more collegial and collaborative venue.”

Since the lawsuit was filed on Jan. 20, 2011, the plaintiffs and defendants have engaged in almost two years of settlement talks. CLA was granted limited intervenor status in June 2011. CLA’s motion to dismiss claimed that plaintiffs’ complaint did not provide enough specificity regarding what actions EPA did or did not take, triggering the need for ESA consultations. The motion to dismiss also argued that the complaint was submitted in the wrong court and outside the statutory deadline established for challenging a pesticide registration decision under FIFRA.

Vroom added that the dismissal provides an opportunity to renew discussions on the role of modern farming technologies in endangered species protection. “This next chapter should look holistically at the entirety of modern agriculture and examine how our nation’s farming systems continue to evolve and improve to benefit all wildlife—including endangered species—and their habitats.”

Additional co-intervenors in the case include Mid America CropLife Association (MACA), Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE), Southern Crop Production Association (SCPA) and the Western Plant Health Association (WPHA). The American Chemistry Council (ACC), the American Farm Bureau Federation and Reckitt Benckiser, among others, are also intervenors in the case.

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