Federal Court Slams EPA for 9-Year Delay in Banning Dangerous Pesticide

Monday, August 15, 2016
Pesticide applied by plane to farmland crops (photo: Getty Images)

By Barbara Leonard, Courthouse News Service


(CN) — The Ninth Circuit scoffed Friday at the latest attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency to drag its heels on banning a dangerous pesticide.


"EPA's nine-year delay in taking action was 'objectively extreme' when we received [the] petition for mandamus, and nothing has changed that would justify EPA's continued failure to respond to the pressing health concerns presented by chlorpyrifos," the 4-page order (pdf) states.


Chlorpyrifos, introduced in 1965, is widely used to control pests that threaten more than 60 crops including almonds, walnuts, oranges, cotton and grapes.


The EPA barred the pesticide from homes in 2000, saying then that the action was "good news for the protection of our country's public health," but this rule did nothing to bar the chemical's application in agricultural settings.


In 2007, the Pesticide Action Network North America and Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned the EPA to cancel pesticide's registration.


The groups noted that the chemical has poisoned many workers, children and rural families, and is linked to neurological impairments in children.


They petitioned the federal appeals court for mandamus relief after years passed with no action from the EPA on the petition.


Under deadline last year, the EPA proposed a ban that would revoke all chlorpyrifos tolerances, ending all uses of the pesticide that result in residue on food, contamination of drinking water, or drift to schools, homes and other inhabited places.


The Ninth Circuit directed the EPA to take final action by Dec. 30, 2016, but still the agency waffled.


Friday's order notes that the EPA cited "extraordinary circumstances" in requesting a six-month extension.


CropLife America and other industry groups meanwhile wanted a year-long delay, the court found.


The three-judge panel said its patience is wearing thin.


"The 'extraordinary circumstances' claimed this time — that EPA issued its proposed rule before completing two studies that may bear on the agency's final rule — is another variation on a theme 'of partial reports, missed deadlines, and vague promises of future action' that has been repeated for the past nine years," the order states. "EPA's continued delay is all the more significant since there are 'considerable human health interests prejudiced by it.'"


Final action by the EPA is due on March 31, 2017.


"This is the final extension, and the court will not grant any further extensions," the unsigned order states.


U.S. Circuit Judges Diarmuid O'Scannlain, A. Wallace Tashima and M. Margaret McKeown sit on the panel.


Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical, manufactures chlorpyrifos and has stated its opposition to the proposed ban, claiming that the pesticide has been thoroughly tested for health, safety and environmental effects.


Dow says it "remains confident that all U.S. tolerance issues relating to the continued use of chlorpyrifos can be readily resolved with a more refined analysis of data."


To Learn More:

Pesticide Action Network North America, et al., v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit) (pdf)

Study Finds Increased Chance of Autism for Children Born Near Commercial Pesticide Use (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Insecticide Chemicals Found in Two-Thirds of Americans and Homes Tested (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Study Links Brain Abnormalities to Dow Chemical Pesticide (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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