California pesticides case continues

May 17, 2013

The two environmental groups at the center of a lawsuit that could have led to restrictions on hundreds of pesticides across the country have decided to file an amended complaint, according to court documents filed with a California court May 10.

The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Pesticide Action Network North America have asked for a two-week extension of a May 22 deadline to file an amended complaint after the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the case on April 22 following a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) motion to dismiss.

“Since the court issued its decision, plaintiffs have diligently worked to evaluate their legal options and have decided to file an amended complaint,” the groups announced in court documents.

“Because of overlapping litigation deadlines and limited availability of their expert, plaintiffs are concerned that, absent a 14-day time extension, they would experience substantial harm because they would be unable to complete the amended complaint within 30 days as the court directed,” the groups stated.

As of last Thursday morning, the court had not ruled on the motion to amend the complaint.

According to the request for a deadline extension, the defendants, including EPA and intervenors CropLife America, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Chemistry Council, are unopposed to the plaintiffs’ latest request.

In a 33-page ruling, the San Francisco court dismissed the lawsuit with leave to amend and also set a 60-day deadline to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

CBD and the Pesticide Action Network North America originally filed a lawsuit on Jan. 20, 2011, alleging EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by not consulting federal wildlife officials about the potential effects that pesticides and other ag chemicals would have on hundreds of species.

The lawsuit named some 300 registered pesticides and other ag chemicals and their potential effects on about 200 species. The lawsuit could have affected some 30,000 ag-chemical-endangeredspecies combinations in all 50 states.

In a statement following the ruling, a spokesperson for CBD said the group is leaving its options open.

EPA made a motion to dismiss on Nov. 16, 2012, saying the lawsuit did not identify specific agency actions that adversely affected endangered species in the course of registering ag chemicals.

The case had been at a virtual standstill since the environmental groups and several ag-industry groups started settlement negotiations in May 2011. The plaintiffs had asked for interim restrictions on how all pesticides named in the lawsuit could be used until EPA made individual determinations about permanent restrictions.

EPA had previously claimed, in essence, that by approving ag chemicals according to rules of the Federal Insecticide, Pesticide and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, the ESA rules did not apply. — Todd Neeley, DTN