Energy & Environment

Five states sue EPA over rule limiting pesticide safety enforcement

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Five states this week sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a rule that narrows the areas where farmers are required to limit human presence during the application of pesticides.

The states argue that the rule will harm their agricultural workers. 

The agency’s rule, finalized in October, makes it so that requirements that govern areas near pesticide applications can only be enforced on a farmer’s property and not in surrounding “off-farm” areas. 

The EPA argued that it was hard for farmers to enforce rules off of their property, but opponents of the move say that the changes risk exposing more people to harmful chemicals that can drift into nearby areas.

The new lawsuit filed by New York, California, Illinois, Maryland and Minnesota echoed this criticism, noting there are “statistical associations between pesticide exposure and cancer, including blood cancers, prostate cancer, and lung cancer.”

“Pesticides are often essential to the preservation of agriculture, but they’re also extremely dangerous to the health of farming communities,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James in a statement.

“Trump’s EPA knowingly increased the risk that farmworkers, their families, and others will be exposed to these dangerous chemicals,” she said.

An EPA spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation. 

At the time the rule was issued, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler argued that it made “it easier to ensure people near our nation’s farms are protected, while simultaneously enhancing the workability of these provisions for farm owners and protecting the environment.”

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