AGs sue EPA over delay of requirement to protect farmworkers

AGs sue EPA over delay of requirement to protect farmworkers
© Getty Images

The attorneys general (AG) from three states are suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to enforce a requirement meant in part to protect farmworkers from pesticides.

The AGs from Maryland, California and New York sued the Trump administration on Wednesday for indefinitely suspending an key requirement in the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS), which requires employers to give training to workers meant to protect them from pesticide poisoning.

The rule was updated under former President Obama in 2015 because the administration concluded that enhanced safety training for farmworkers and pesticide handlers would help reduce the amount and severity of pesticide exposure on the job. The Trump administration opted to suspend the rule last December.

In the joint filing the trio of AGs argue that EPA's decision to delay the requirement was unlawful.

"EPA’s unjustified delay harms the nation’s hundreds of thousands of farmworkers and their families, and is arbitrary and capricious," reads the suit.

An EPA spokesperson the agency “doesn’t comment on pending litigation."

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood called the decision dangerous.

“Pesticides are meant to be poisonous. Yet, Trump EPA is purposefully denying farmworkers the tools they need to protect themselves and their families from these dangerous chemicals,” Underwood said in a statement.  “EPA’s indefinite suspension of critical pesticide safety training is reprehensible — and illegal. We will continue to do what’s necessary to protect the health and safety of all New Yorkers.” 

The EPA is also under scrutiny for its handling of another chemical: per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, which are linked to cancer. The agency is grappling with how to handle traces of the substance found in drinking water and was criticized last week for lacking transparency over the policymaking process.

While the administration promises they are acting to regulate the chemical, environmentalists are skeptical that they will take strong action given the administration's strong industry bent.