A federal appeals court has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which former Administrator Scott Pruitt refused to do last year.
The decision is a major win for environmentalists and health advocates. The EPA’s own research, as recently as 2016, linked chlorpyrifos to developmental and neurological disorders, especially in children and infants.
The Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the federal law governing pesticides, requires the EPA to ban the allowance of a pesticide on food if it finds any harm from exposure to it.
Since the EPA’s research found such harm, the Trump administration violated the law when Pruitt didn’t act to revoke “tolerances” of chlorpyrifos, the regulatory term for amounts of pesticide residue allowed on food.
“There was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children,” Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in the 2-1 opinion in the case, titled League of United Latin American Citizens v. Andrew Wheeler.
The court ordered the EPA to revoke both the residue tolerances for chlorpyrifos and all approvals for use of the pesticide within 60 days.
Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide commonly used on crops like corn, almonds and cotton. It was developed in the 1960s by Dow Chemical Co., and Dow remains one of its top marketers.
Pruitt decided against banning its use in March 2017, reversing the EPA’s previous proposal under the Obama administration to ban it.
He said at the time that blocking the pesticide’s use would harm farmers and cited Agriculture Department research that differed from the EPA’s findings.