Judge: EPA violated law in approving products dangerous to bees, butterflies

Rusty patched bumblebee in Minnesota
Rusty patched bumblebee
Sarina Jepsen | The Xerces Society via AP 2012

A Minnesota beekeeper is claiming a partial victory in a federal lawsuit over the regulation of a common insecticide.

Last week, a federal judge in California ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the federal Endangered Species Act when it approved dozens of neonicotinoid insecticide products.

Steve Ellis of central Minnesota is the lead plaintiff of suit, which claims the EPA approved products containing neonicotinoid insecticide without adequately considering harm to bees and endangered species.

Center for Food Safety attorney Peter Jenkins said the judge will now consider if she should suspend some of the products registered a decade ago.

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"They should have recognized potential effects on threatened and endangered butterflies, insects, invertebrates, fish and consulted with the expert agencies and determined what the effects were. But EPA didn't do that," said Jenkins.

The lawsuit was filed in 2013 and Jenkins said there is now additional evidence of harm to endangered species.

"Since we started this case, there've been three different insects that have been listed where the Fish and Wildlife Service identified neonic insecticides as contributing factors in the listing of the species," said Jenkins.

Those endangered insects include two Minnesota butterflies, the Dakota Skipper and the Poweshiek Skipperling, as well as recently-listed rusty patched bumblebee.

The EPA did not respond to a request for comment.

Jenkins said it will likely take a few months to reach a final resolution in the case.