In the March 27 Federal Register, EPA announced the availability of a document entitled, “Enhancing Stakeholder Input in the Pesticide Registration Review and ESA Consultation Processes and Development of Economically and Technologically Feasible Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives.”

The paper was jointly prepared by EPA, USDA and the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (the Services).

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act requires EPA to conduct registration reviews every 15 years on all registered pesticides.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) mandates that EPA consult with the Services on such reviews. The document describes changes to EPA's pesticide registration review program and how it will conduct the ESA consultations.

EPA will be seeking public input earlier in the process and will hold “focus” meetings at the start of registration review for each active ingredient.

The agency will initiate any needed formal ESA consultations at a later stage in the review process in order for EPA to develop more refined ecological risk assessments and to engage affected stakeholders in discussions that should result in more focused consultation packages, including mitigation proposals for listed species.

This approach has the potential to maximize the opportunity to effect changes that provide protections for species and their designated critical habitat, lessen the impacts on agriculture, and narrow the scope of the Federal action.

Additionally, the document describes EPA's plans to reach out to pesticide users potentially affected to discuss the technological and economic feasibility of reasonable and prudent alternatives (RPAs) proposed by the Services to avoid jeopardy to threatened and/or endangered species.

USDA's relationships with the agricultural community provide a critical link between EPA's expertise on pesticides and the Services' expertise on listed species' locations, status and biology.

Finally, the document describes the process by which public comments received on RPAs will be summarized and organized by EPA and provided to the Services, which will prepare a document to be included in the administrative record of the consultation explaining how comments were considered, and if appropriate, how the final biological opinion was modified to address the comments.

The Services will provide the document to EPA and both the Services and EPA will make the document available to the public upon request.

These process changes are intended to provide clarity and transparency to the ESA Section 7 consultation process for pesticides.

A copy of this document is in the docket at www.regulations.gov under docket ID number EPA-HQ-OPP-2012-0442.