Environment: Sue the Bastards

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PESTICIDE ABUSE. Instead of advocating a ban on all pesticides, E.D.F. approves limited spraying of some farm poisons, plus full deployment of the pest's natural enemies. E.D.F. scientists do not oppose using DDT abroad in areas where the clear and present danger of malaria overrides all other considerations. But they do oppose it in the U.S., where malaria is not a problem and DDT's secondary effects are well documented. To block DDT, the group brought actions against the Health, Education and Welfare and Agriculture departments. The court passed the complaint to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which in turn asked a panel of independent scientists to study the problem. Last month the panel reported that while DDT does not pose "an imminent hazard to human health," it does harm the environment, and thus should be phased out as soon as possible. In view of this report, the court has ordered the EPA to explain why DDT should not be banned as E.D.F. urges.

NEEDLESS PROJECTS. Starting with its battle against the Cross-Florida Barge Canal, which President Nixon himself stopped (TIME, Feb. 1), E.D.F. has brought seven major suits against federal construction projects. Most of them are designed to halt dams proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. As the environmental lawyers and their scientific advisers see it, none of the projects are needed for water control, agriculture or any other practical purpose—and all would destroy valuable ecological balances. So far, the courts have tended to agree. Last February a federal court enjoined the Army Engineers from damming the Cossatot River in Arkansas. In a recent decision, Federal District Judge John L. Smith concurred with E.D.F.'s arguments and issued a preliminary injunction halting all work on a proposed waterway linking the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee.

E.D.F.'s next logical step is to hire a specialist to measure public health hazards. One of his first targets will be the effect of airborne contaminants, like lead from auto exhausts, on human health. Says Rod Cameron: "We are trying to make ecological considerations as important a part of any long-range scheme as economics. With the courts' help, we must perfect the art of the possible."

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