The agency told the groups Monday that it has no authority to act because ammunition was specifically exempted in the Toxic Substances Control Act. It's the same answer the agency provided when the groups made a similar request in 2010.
The Center for Biological Diversity and more than 100 other groups submitted the petition last month, asking that the lead be regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act. They contend the lead is responsible for poisoning millions of birds and other animals every year.
It's shameful that the EPA refuses to save wildlife from senseless lead poisoning," Jeff Miller, a representative of the Center for Biological Diversity, told the Lewiston Tribune. "The poisoning of bald eagles and other wildlife is a national tragedy the EPA can easily put an end to, since there are plenty of safe, available alternatives to lead ammo."
Many hunting groups and ammunition makers say lead alternatives are too expensive, and that bullets containing lead don't pose a threat to animal populations. Hunters prefer lead shot because it's heavier and flies straighter than other ammunition.
Miller argued the EPA has the authority to regulate chemical substances in ammunition that pose a threat, if not ammunition itself. He said his organization and others advocating for some restrictions on lead in ammunition intended to go to court to force the issue.
"We look forward to putting this issue before a court, since the law is very clear that EPA has the responsibility to protect wildlife and people from toxic lead exposure," said Miller. "The EPA never evaluated the merits of regulating toxic lead ammo, nor has a court ruled on its authority to act under the federal toxics law."
The Center for Biological Diversity sued following the dismissal of its 2010 petition, but the case was thrown out because a filing deadline was missed.
Some federal bird biologists believe lead is a major cause of mortality in bird populations, especially the struggling California Condor. North America's largest land bird is a scavenger and feasts on carcasses such as deer and coyotes left behind by hunters, often ingesting lead fragments left in the carcass.
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