Court orders EPA to make final decision on banning controversial pesticide

Court orders EPA to make final decision on banning controversial pesticide
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A U.S. appeals court is forcing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make a final decision on whether it will ban the use of a common pesticide linked to developmental disorders in children.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Friday ordered the EPA to make a final decision on whether it will ban the use of chlorpyrifos across the country. The agency has until mid-July to make its determination.

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Chlorpyrifos is an agricultural chemical commonly used on apple, orange, strawberry, corn and wheat crops. It was first developed in World War II for use in chemical warfare. The chemical’s use on foods has had a long, embattled history in the U.S. Many scientific studies have shown that the insecticide is linked to alterations in brain structure and cognition, and that children are especially susceptible.

Last year, the appellate court ordered the EPA to remove chlorpyrifos from use within 60 days of an August ruling, ending what would have been a decadelong fight by health advocates to ban the substance.

However, the Trump administration promptly appealed that ruling, and the court agreed to rehear the case.

Today’s ruling will force EPA to make a final decision on the chemical. Critics have accused the agency of dragging its heels.

In 2001, EPA barred the use of the chemical for residential use, but the Trump administration has resisted outright banning it. Under former President Obama, the agency proposed a formal ban on the wide use of chlorpyrifos, but the Trump EPA in 2017, lead by then-Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Scientists flee USDA as research agencies move to Kansas City area | Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules to put industry reps on boards | New rule to limit ability to appeal pollution permits Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank Watchdog finds EPA skirted rules when appointing industry leaders to science boards MOREreversed the order.

The EPA concluded that the science linking neurological effects in children to the chemical "was unresolved."

“EPA has concluded that, despite several years of study, the science addressing neurodevelopmental effects remains unresolved and that further evaluation of the science during the remaining time for completion of registration review is warranted to achieve greater certainty as to whether the potential exists for adverse neurodevelopmental effects to occur from current human exposures to chlorpyrifos,” Pruitt wrote in his order.

“We are reviewing the court’s order and will be taking final action on the administrative objections before the agency within 90 days," EPA spokesman James Hewitt told The Hill.

Environmental group Earthjustice, a petitioner in the case, praised the court’s ruling Friday.

“We commend the court for this ruling as it forces the EPA to stop stalling,” said Patti Goldman, an Earthjustice attorney.

“While we are moving forward, the tragedy is that children are being exposed to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide science has long shown is unsafe," Goldman added. "We hope Trump’s EPA finally decides to protect the future of countless children and the health of millions of farmworkers.”

The court’s ruling comes a day after presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race Five things to watch for at Defense nominee's confirmation hearing MORE (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill to restrict schools from purchasing or serving any food that contains any amount of detectable chlorpyrifos.

“As a mother of two young sons, it’s alarming that the food in school meals could contain even a trace of a chemical that could harm students’ development and ability to learn,” Gillibrand, who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in a statement.