Oregon’s Environmental Quality Commission today rejected a petition from Northwest Environmental Advocates to increase regulation of pesticides that can harm salmon and steelhead on the endangered species list.
The commission voted 5-0 to reject the petition from Nina Bell, the environmental group’s director. Among other measures, Bell’s petition would have required significantly increased buffer zones for spraying certain pesticides near streams.
The petition focused on pesticides that the National Marine Fisheries Service has identified as harmful to fish and other aquatic life. The federal reviews indicate that some pesticides are harmful even when used according to label instructions approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, the petition notes.
Farm and forest groups opposed the petition, noting that pending lawsuits have challenged NMFS’ conclusions. Critics say NMFS’ assumptions about pesticide use don’t reflect what’s actually happening on the ground.
DEQ staff also opposed the petition, saying that it hopes to expand voluntary pesticide stewardship partnerships to address pesticide pollution in priority watersheds.
The National Academy of Sciences is reviewing the scientific methods used to assess pesticide risks, DEQ staff noted. EPA will use the academy’s conclusions, due in 2013, to decide how to implement NMFS recommendations for pesticide use.
Bell has filed numerous successful lawsuits on water pollution issues, including the suit that prompted Portland to clean up sewage overflows. After the vote, Bell said she plans no further action in the short term.
But pesticide rules are subject to challenge under the Endangered Species Act: “Eventually,” she said, “that’s certainly something that could come up.”