Court accuses EPA of ‘filibustering’ on pesticide safety

Court accuses EPA of ‘filibustering’ on pesticide safety
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A federal court scolded the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for continually delaying a formal response to a request that it restrict a pesticide’s use.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the EPA late Monday to either issue a new regulation concerning the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos or issue some other complete, formal response to the request by the end of October, more than eight years after conservation groups first filed the petition.

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“Although filibustering may be a venerable tradition in the United States Senate, it is frowned upon in administrative agencies tasked with protecting human health,” the court wrote in its opinion.

“We recognize the scientific complexity inherent in evaluating the safety of pesticides and the competing interests that the agency must juggle,” the judges said. “However, EPA’s ambiguous plan to possibly issue a proposed rule nearly nine years after receiving the administrative petition is too little, too late.”

The court ruled that the EPA’s continued delays are “egregious,” and granted requests from the Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to force the EPA to act.

Chlorpyrifos is one of the most widely used agricultural pesticides, though it is banned from residential use. Conservation groups want more restrictions on it, citing evidence that links it to developmental problems, lowered brain function, loss of memory and other issues in children and agricultural workers.

Following a 2007 petition and court appearances, the EPA made pledges to decide on new restrictions in 2011, 2014, 2015 and now potentially 2016, but it never took final action.

“Every year, farmworkers and families in rural communities are exposed to chlorpyrifos, and EPA has dragged its feet too long on the issue of basic human health protection,” Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney who represented the groups in court, said in a statement.

Veena Singla, a scientist at the NRDC, said the ruling “recognizes the seriousness of these threats to human health.”