A divided federal appeals court on Thursday ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ban a widely-used pesticide that critics say can endanger children and farmers.
The 2-1 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle overturned former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt’s March 2017 denial of a petition by environmental groups to halt the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops such as fruits, vegetables and nuts.
“This shows that the EPA can’t just ignore the science that this pesticide damages children’s brains,” Marisa Ordonia, a lawyer for Earthjustice, which represented the petitioners, said in an interview. “The Trump administration has to follow the law, as does everyone else.”
Pruitt’s ruling, one of many by the administration to reduce federal regulatory oversight, had reversed a 2015 Obama administration recommendation to extend to food a 2000 ban on chlorpyrifos that covered most household settings.
Writing for the Seattle-based appeals court, Judge Jed Rakoff directed the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos within 60 days, saying the agency failed to counteract “scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children.”
Rakoff also faulted the EPA for going against its own 2016 risk assessment for the pesticide, “largely ignoring” and then “temporizing” in its response to the petition, and wrongly declaring that the court had no business deciding the matter.
“If Congress’s statutory mandates are to mean anything, the time has come to put a stop to this patent evasion,” wrote Rakoff, who normally sits on the federal district court in Manhattan.
Wyn Hornbuckle, a U.S. Department of Justice spokesman, said that office is reviewing the decision.
Pruitt’s mandate, the Natural Resources Defense Council and United Farmer Workers, and Washington, DC, New York, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington state. was against groups like lawyers in general.
“Today’s decision is a big win for our children’s health,” New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement.
Circuit Judge Ferdinand Fernandez was exempt from Thursday’s ruling and said that although the court’s argument over judicial power was “some persuasive value”, judicial authorities were absent.
Regulating the regime, Pruitt said that while EPA is protecting people’s health and the environment, thousands of American farmers who use chlorpyrifos need to “regulate” it.
“Instead of pre-determined results,” Pruitt said, “we decided to use sound knowledge to decide, reversing the steps the previous administration has taken to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world.”
EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said on Thursday that “the evidence underlying the convictions of the prisoner is inaccessible and that the agency has prevented the ongoing process of fully evaluating pesticide using the best available transparent intelligence.”
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