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Greens Force Feds|to Study Pesticides

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - A federal judge granted a stipulated settlement in an environmental case accusing federal agencies of illegally delaying consultations on pesticides' effects on endangered species in the California Bay Delta.

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Department of the Interior in February 2015, claiming the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species and Administrative Procedure Acts by failing to complete interagency consultation.

The endangered species at issue are the Delta smelt and Alameda whipsnake; the pesticides are Atrazine, alachlor and 2,4-D.

In 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity and CropLife America settled a similar lawsuit from 2007, in which the Center sued the Environmental Protection Agency on the same allegations involving the same three pesticides.

The EPA promised it will "make effects determinations and initiate consultation, as appropriate" with the Fish and Wildlife Service on the effects of 75 pesticides on 11 endangered and threatened species in the Bay Area.

In granting the settlement on Friday, U.S. District Judge Joseph Spero said the parties agreed to suspend all applicable deadlines to allow the federal agencies to engage in potential nationwide consultations on the pesticides' effects.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has 30 days to provide the Center with an estimated schedule for completing those consultations, and will update the Center on the status of the consultations every four months.

The agencies will also pay attorneys' fees and costs, to be determined within 60 days.

Neither side's lead counsel immediately responded to an email requesting comment on Monday afternoon.

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