The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Tuesday that it is seeking public comment on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) draft biological opinion for the registration of malathion, an insecticide commonly and currently used to control mosquitoes and other insects that attack fruits, vegetables, plants, and shrubs. The biological opinion reportedly follows a January 2017 biological evaluation, which determined that the pesticide would likely have adverse effects on 78 Endangered Species Act-listed species and 23 designated critical habitats.
House Committee on Natural Resources Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) assailed the findings, claiming that the draft opinion makes clear that the EPA must ban malathion as soon as possible. In his office’s press release, Rep. Grijalva asserted that the opinion contains “the most severe findings of harm and risk FWS has ever published on a given substance.”
The legislator also accused politicians and lobbyists, including the Trump administration’s U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, of suppressing earlier FWS risk findings on malathion and other substances. According to the press release and a therein-referenced New York Times article by Eric Lipton published on Mar. 26, 2019, Bernhardt blocked the FWS from releasing the findings, which the agency had originally planned to do in November 2017. According to Rep. Grijalva, he and other committee members pushed for the release of the findings in 2019 following the New York Times revelation.
“We’re in the middle of a widely documented extinction crisis, and we can’t afford to keep pretending otherwise any longer,” Rep. Grijalva said. “The Biden administration has a chance here to pull an indefensible product out of circulation, protect dozens of species that otherwise have little chance of survival, and demonstrate that our environmental policies are based on the best available science. The Natural Resources Committee is continuing its oversight of pesticide impacts on endangered species, and I hope to see today’s analysis translate to official action as soon as possible.”
According to the EPA’s press release, the public comment period is scheduled to close on June 19.