Release of Pesticide Study Blocked by DOI

Silencing Science Tracker

Release of Pesticide Study Blocked by DOI

In or around November 2017, political appointees at the Department of the Interior (DOI) blocked release of a report, examining the impact of pesticide use on endangered and threatened species.

The report focused on three commonly pesticides — chlorpyrifos, malathion, and dioxinon — which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was proposing to re-authorize. Prior to re-authorization, EPA had to consult with the DOI’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. Under the terms of that Act, FWS scientists had to assess whether use of the pesticides would “jeopardize the continued existence” of any threatened or endangered species. The results of that assessment were documented in the report, which concluded that use of chlorpyrifos would jeopardize 1,399 species, while use of malathion would jeopardize the continued existence of 1,284 species, and use of dioxinon would jeopardize 175 species.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that, as FWS was preparing to release the report, its authors were called to a meeting with then Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. The Deputy Secretary subsequently announced that the report would not be released in its current form. The report’s authors were told to revise the methodology they had used to determine whether use of the pesticides jeopardizes species. The authors had previously based that assessment on the impacts of using the pesticides at the maximum level allowed by law. They were, however, told to revise their approach and assess impacts based on actual historic pesticide use. This revised approach was reported supported by the pesticide industry.



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