Energy & Environment

Court rejects greens’ appeal of EPA decision not to ban pesticide


A federal appeals court rejected a request from environmental groups to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision not to restrict the controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos.

The San Francisco-based Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit made its decision on procedural grounds, writing Tuesday that the green groups, led by the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), need to first file a challenge with the EPA before they can go to court.

“PANNA’s complaints arrive at our doorstep too soon,” the three-judge panel of the appeals court wrote.

{mosads}“Now that EPA has issued its denial, substantive objections must first be made through the administrative process mandated by statute,” they said.

EPA head Scott Pruitt rejected the green groups’ petition to ban the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops. The agency’s own research had found a link between neurological development problems and chlorpyrifos exposure in children and fetuses, but Pruitt questioned those findings and pointed to the cost of restricting the pesticide’s use.

Patti Goldman, a lawyer with Earthjustice and the lead attorney on the case, said the court’s decision is disappointing.

“We’re disappointed, because delay means more children will be exposed to this nasty pesticide before it’s banned,” she said. “But the decision to keep it on the market is so blatantly illegal that this is really just a bump in the road.”

Earthjustice has already filed a petition with the EPA and another lawsuit challenging the agency’s action. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) has also filed an EPA challenge on behalf of New York and six other Democrat-led states.

If the EPA rejects those filings, the groups and states could then file new lawsuits.

EPA spokeswoman Amy Graham applauded the court’s decision, saying it gives the agency room to complete its ongoing assessment of chlorpyrifos that’s separate from the previous petition.

“This victory affords EPA the necessary time to conduct a proper evaluation under the law of the science and the studies on chlorpyrifos and provide clarity about the pesticide’s safety to the American people,” she said in a statement.

Tuesday’s decision stemmed from a lawsuit that PANNA, Earthjustice and the Natural Resources Defense Council filed in 2014 to get the EPA to respond to its petition to ban chlorpyrifos. The agency agreed to formally consider the petition.

The green groups in April filed a new motion in that same lawsuit, asking the 9th Circuit to reverse Pruitt’s decision.

But in its Tuesday order, the court said that the EPA abided by the schedule it was assigned, and the greens’ request seeks to bypass the normal administrative process. 

Tags chlorpyrifos Environmental Protection Agency Pesticides Scott Pruitt

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