'Leadheads' Sue EPA

Refusing to take "no" for an answer, three environmental groups have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in U.S. District Court, hoping that a judge will force the agency to ban lead in fishing tackle and ammunition.

"The EPA has the ability to protect America's wildlife from ongoing preventable lead poisoning, but continues to shirk its responsibility," said Jeff Miller from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).

Earlier, the CBD and four other groups petitioned EPA to implement a ban, but it refused.

Regarding fishing tackle, the agency said that the groups failed to demonstrate "that the requested rule is necessary to protect against an unreasonable risk or injury to health or the environment." It also said that an increasing number of limitations on use of lead tackle on some federal and state lands, as well as plentiful federal and state education and outreach programs, "call into question whether a national ban on lead in fishing gear would be the least burdensome, adequately protective approach to address the concern."

This time around, only CBD, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and Project Gutpile are involved. The American Bird Conservancy and Association of Avian Veterinarians chose not to join the suit.

The agency asserts that its "decisions were based on a careful analysis of the facts and law." Angling advocates add that evidence does not support a ban.

"We fundamentally think this is the jurisdiction of state fish and wildlife agencies to address these types of problems where they may exist," said Gordon Robertson of the American Sportfishing Association. "The data shows this is not a problem as it relates to the use of lead in fishing gear."

In August, EPA denied the ammunition portion of the petition, insisting that it didn't have authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act. It delayed ruling about fishing tackle until early November.

By that time, more than 43,000 anglers had voiced their opposition to the ban, mostly through the KeepAmericaFishing.com
website. In addition, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, National Marine Manufacturers Association, BoatU.S., and Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation (CSF) joined them in the fight. Eighty members of Congress signed onto the CSF letter sent to the EPA.