Oregon Democrats push EPA to justify use of pesticide 'highly toxic' to bees

Oregon Democrats push EPA to justify use of pesticide 'highly toxic' to bees
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Oregon Democrats are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to defend its decision to expand the use of a pesticide considered harmful to bees.

The EPA in July expanded the allowed uses of sulfoxaflor, saying the decision was made with pollinators in mind, as the pesticide is less harmful to bees than other alternatives.

But the agency has previously referred to the pesticide as “highly toxic to bees” — something that a number of Oregon Democrats in Congress had noticed.

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“These new approved uses come at a time when colonies are dying at alarming rates,” Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Wyden asks NSA to investigate White House cybersecurity | Commerce withdraws Huawei rule after Pentagon objects | Warren calls on Brazil to drop Greenwald charges Wyden vows push to force release of Khashoggi assessment Wyden calls on NSA to examine White House cybersecurity following Bezos hack MORE and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyEnvironmentalists, Oregon senators oppose DOT increasing transport of natural gas by rail Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations Democrats conflicted over how to limit Trump's war powers MORE said in a letter co-signed with Reps. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerLobbying world Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Progressives oppose spending stopgap measure over surveillance authority extension MORE, Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioOvernight Energy: Critics question data behind new Trump water rule | Groups seek more time to comment on Trump environmental rollback | EPA under scrutiny over backlog of toxic waste cleanups Critics question data used in rule replacing Obama-era waterway protections Lawmakers to question FAA chief on 737 Max review MORE and Suzanne BonamiciSuzanne Marie BonamiciPelosi heading to Madrid for UN climate change convention Scientists join Democrats in panning EPA's 'secret science' rule Overnight Energy: Democrats call for Ross to resign over report he threatened NOAA officials | Commerce denies report | Documents detail plan to decentralize BLM | Lawmakers demand answers on bee-killing pesticide MORE“This is particularly concerning, given that pollinators are an invaluable component of our nation’s food production.”

The lawmakers are asking the EPA to more fully explain the scientific rationale for their decision by Oct. 9, including its risk assessment of the pesticide for pollinators.

A spokesperson for the EPA said it would respond to the letter through appropriate channels.

The letter follows two recent lawsuits from environmental groups who say the EPA relied too heavily on industry studies when approving sulfoxaflor. 

An EPA official told reporters when the new policy was unveiled that “most of the studies that we used were indeed sponsored by industry. That is common practice in the pesticide program.”

EPA also the economic plight of farmers was a factor in its decision. The agency said growers could see net revenue losses of up to 50 percent if they aren't able to use the pesticide.

Sulfoxaflor was banned by a federal court in 2015 in a suit brought by beekeepers, but the EPA has repeatedly granted emergency exemptions that allow farmers to use the pesticide.

The EPA’s Office of Inspector General wrote in a report last year that the agency did not have processes in place to determine how its emergency measures impact human and environmental health.

The Oregon Democrats also pushed the EPA to “reverse the trend of issuing emergency exemptions” that allow important restrictions on the pesticide to be circumvented.

Updated at 2 p.m.