The Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C.

One important job that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has is approving new pesticides that chemical companies want to bring to market, as well as ensuring that older pesticides still meet today’s safety standards. 

The EPA has more work to do these days, but it has fewer employees to do it, agency data released Tuesday shows. Since 2005, the number of completed pesticide registrations has more than doubled, while the number of employees overseeing the process has dropped by a quarter. 

In 2004, Congress passed a law aimed at speeding the process of registering these pesticides. The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act requires pesticide manufacturers to pay fees to help fund the review process. Registrants pay for the number of products registered, so the agency receives more money for more products. 

But this money has not allowed the pesticide staff to keep pace with the number of new products. The EPA highlighted this discrepancy in a work plan released Tuesday designed to address its backlog of finding whether new pesticides violate the Endangered Species Act. 

[Read more: ‘A pretty big sea change’: EPA says it will consider endangered species when approving new pesticides — without the threat of lawsuits]

Currently, the agency has a nearly two-decade-long backlog of Endangered Species Act decisions. The EPA said this was “an unsustainable and legally tenuous situation.”

In the graph below, “FTEs” means the number of positions available to review old and new registrations for pesticides.

Top image: The Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. photo by EPA

Type of work:

Johnathan Hettinger focuses on pesticide coverage for Investigative Midwest. Growing up in central Illinois, Johnathan saw and had family members working in all aspects of agribusiness, from boots-in-the-field...

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