(CN) – Seven environmental groups demand in Federal Court that the U.S. EPA regulate lead ammunition, which poisons California condors, eagles, trumpeter swans and other wildlife.
The Trumpeter Swan Society, the Center for Biological Diversity and five other groups seek judicial review of the Environmental Protection Agency’s denial of their petition.
They want the EPA to regulate lead ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The EPA twice refused to act, claiming it has no authority to do so.
“There is extensive documentation showing that lead shotgun pellets accumulate in both aquatic and terrestrial habitats, where animals encounter and ingest these lead items, often mistaking them for food, grit or bone fragments,” according to the complaint in District of Columbia Federal Court.
“More than 130 species of animals (including mammals, upland birds, raptors, waterfowl, amphibians and reptiles) have been reported in scientific literature as being exposed or killed by ingesting lead shot, bullets, bullet fragments or prey contaminated with lead bullets or shot.” (Parentheses in original.)
Lead poisoning of California condors, an endangered scavenger reintroduced into the Grand Canyon region several years ago, is particularly high. Arizona wildlife officials offer hunters there free nontoxic copper bullets with hunting permits. One official told Courthouse News in April that about 90 percent of hunters participate in the voluntary program.
California has gone further, banning lead ammunition in areas where condors live, though with uneven success.
“In fact, several states have mandated nontoxic shotgun shot for upland game bird hunting and other partial bans,” the complaint states. “However, states with no regulations for non-lead hunting other than waterfowl and even those states with partial regulations, such as California’s requirement for big game hunting with nontoxic ammunition within the eight-county range of California condors, continue to have high rates of lead poisoning in wildlife.”
In March, 100 organizations in 35 states asked the EPA to regulate lead bullets and shot. But the agency refused to review the petition, saying it was similar to a previous request in 2010. The EPA also stated, as it did in 2010, that it has no authority under the TSCA to regulate ammunition.
The groups dispute both conclusions.
“The EPA wrongfully characterized the 2012 petition as substantially the same as the 2010 petition,” the complaint states. “The two petitions contain substantially different requests; while the 2010 petition sought a complete ban on all lead bullets and shot, the 2012 petition sought to initiate a rulemaking for regulations that adequately protect wildlife, human health and the environment against the unreasonable risk of injury from bullets and shot containing lead used in hunting and shooting sports (specifically excluding military and law enforcement uses) which have the potential to cause harmful lead exposure to wildlife and humans.
“Further, the 2012 petition was brought by a different and much larger group of petitioners. Finally, the 2012 petition introduced significant new information regarding the toxic effects of lead ammunition on wildlife, the toxic effects of lead on human health, the availability and performance of alternatives to lead ammunition, the effectiveness of lead ammunition regulations, and the legal authority of the EPA to regulate bullets and shot.”
The EPA for years has regulated lead as a toxic substance, so it is unclear why it refuses to do so for lead ammunition, the groups say.
“The EPA has already declared that lead is a toxic substance, and has removed nearly all products containing lead from the market,” the complaint states. “Most other uses of lead, such as lead-based paints, plumbing pipe and fixtures, and leaded gasoline, are already subject to strict regulation. The EPA has recently initiated additional regulatory actions to reduce lead exposure, for example: in January 2008, EPA added lead and lead compounds to its Priority Testing List, requiring certain manufacturers to submit unpublished health and safety reports to the EPA (40 C.F.R. 716.120); the EPA recently announced its intention to phase out lead automobile wheel balancing weights; and manufacturers of consumer products intended for use by children who also manufacture lead or lead compounds are required to report certain health and safety data to the EPA. However, EPA has still not taken any action to regulate lead bullets and shot under TSCA.”
The plaintiffs ask the court to set aside the EPA decision and order the agency to consider the petition anew.
“The EPA has the ability to immediately end the unintended killing of eagles, swans, loons, condors and other wildlife,” the Center for Biological Diversity’s Jeff Miller said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the agency refuses to address this needless poisoning. We’ve removed toxic lead from gasoline, paint and most products exposing humans to lead poisoning; now it’s time to do the same for hunting ammunition to protect America’s wildlife.”
The groups are represented by William Snape in Washington, D.C.