Mark Rey, the undersecretary of agriculture in charge of the U.S. Forest Service, has been threatened with jail time or house arrest for his agency’s attempts to continue using a flame retardant on forest fires that’s toxic to fish. In 2002, fire retardant was dropped on a blaze in central Oregon, killing about 20,000 fish. Soon after, green group Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics sued. As a result, in 2005, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy found that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act when it failed to properly conduct public reviews of the fire retardant chemical. Then this Friday, the same judge noted that the agency still hadn’t completed the reviews, ruling, “The Forest Service, throughout these proceedings, evidenced a strategy of circumventing, rather than complying with the law.” Rey and the Forest Service have one more chance to explain themselves at a hearing late next month, but if the judge isn’t convinced of the agency’s progress in complying with the law, Rey could see jail time or the agency could be ordered to use only water on fires until review of the retardant is complete.

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