The Trump administration late Wednesday halted plans to ban a pesticide called chlorpyrifos, rejecting conclusions reached by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists during the waning days of the Obama administration that the chemical is harmful to farm workers.
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt pointedly announced he was “reversing the previous administration’s steps” by allowing farmers to continue using chlorpyrifos. “We are returning to using sound science in decision-making – rather than predetermined results,” he said in a prepared statement.
California officials, who already are battling the Trump administration over climate change and tailpipe emissions, could ramp up the state’s regulation of chlorpryifos in spite of Pruitt’s decision.
“It’s a pesticide that’s definitely on our radar,” said spokeswoman Charlotte Fadipe of the state Department of Pesticide Regulation. However, she said the state isn’t considering an outright ban on the chemical.
While applauded by farm groups, Pruitt’s decision infuriated a coalition seeking to ban the pesticide altogether, including the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, United Farm Workers and Natural Resources Defense Council. The coalition noted that chlorpyrifos was banned for most household uses in 2001.
Chlorpyrifos is a toxin that can affect the nervous system; children are particularly vulnerable, according to the advocacy group Californians for Pesticide Reform. Its use in agriculture can compromise food safety, according to the group, but the risk is especially high for farmworkers and people living in rural areas.
“It’s widely used in the Central Valley, a lot of orchard crops, a lot of row crops,” said Patti Goldman of Earthjustice, a law firm that sued the EPA in 2014 to get the chemical banned. “It’s probably used in more crops in California than anywhere else.” Goldman said her firm plans to continue fighting in court over the issue.
Read the whole story in the Sacramento Bee