Groups Fight EPA’s Approval of BASF-Developed Herbicide Before 9th Circuit

On Friday, the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity asked the Ninth Circuit to review an Environmental Protection Agency approval for a herbicide with trifludimoxazin as its active ingredient, and set aside the EPA order from May 12 granting the registration. 

The plaintiffs claimed in their filing that the EPA violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Endangered Species Act when approving the herbicide without adequately considering potential environmental harms. Specifically, they alleged that the EPA did not ensure that the approval would not cause harm to endangered species or their protected habitats. 

The herbicide in question, which was developed by BASF, is known as Tirexor or Vulcarus. The plaintiffs attached BASF’s application and the EPA’s memorandum approving the herbicide to the Ninth Circuit petition. The Ninth Circuit docketed the appeal and issued deadlines for briefs from the parties on Friday. 

According to a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity, the herbicide is designed to control weeds in corn, soy, tree plantations, and other crops. Reportedly, the EPA did not give weight to the impact of spray drift or run off on various species including aquatic plants and fish. The plaintiffs further alleged that the EPA admitted that it ignored these requirements during public comment periods. 

“It’s disappointing that even with the change in administration, EPA is continuing to approve new pesticides that harm the environment, farmers, endangered species and human health — without a thorough consideration of these harms,” said Amy van Saun, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety in the press release. “EPA admits that spray drift and runoff of trifludimoxazin are likely to cause damage to non-target crops, wild plants and fish, yet it failed to implement measures that could help to reduce those risks.”

The plaintiffs said that tribludimoxazin is about ten times more powerful than dicamba, which has caused significant environmental harm.  Last year the Ninth Circuit vacated the approval of dicamba, although the herbicide was given an approval with additional restrictions soon after the prior approval was vacated. In the plaintiffs’ press release, the approval of this allegedly more hazardous pesticide was claimed to be “incredibly irresponsible” and lacking mitigation measures which could decrease drift. 

“The EPA cannot pick and choose when it will protect endangered species from toxic pesticides, condemning some species to extinction because the agency feels inconvenienced,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The EPA must stop recklessly approving pesticides that are polluting our rivers and streams and slowly wiping out one of the world’s most diverse collections of freshwater species just to placate the pesticide industry.”

Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that the herbicide could cause risks to Monarch butterflies, Chinook salmon, rusty-patched bumblebees, and various fish and wild plants.