Two Democratic members of Congress want the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general to investigate Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to reject a petition to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, in a letter sent to the OIG on Thursday.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, said in the letter the decision made by Pruitt on March 30 was not based on science.
“This decision ignored the EPA’s own scientific conclusions and reversed the EPA’s proposed action that would have ended the use of this neurotoxin, and the action appears to be inconsistent with the legal standard for EPA decisions on banning hazardous pesticides,” the letter said.
On April 4, Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network — some of the same groups behind the initial proposal to ban chlorpyrifos — filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. The appeal argued the agency did not actually issue the decision originally required by the court.
Pruitt and the agency denied a petition filed by environmental groups to ban the pesticide outright, saying in a statement that farmers need chlorpyrifos and an agency that relies on “sound science” when making decisions.
That move was a surprising reversal from the stance of the EPA under the Obama administration, which had indicated as recently as fall 2016 that it was prepared to issue a full ban on the pesticide. Chlorpyrifos is the main ingredient in Dow AgroSciences’ Lorsban insecticide targeting pests such as soybean aphids, spider mites and corn rootworm. Lorsban is used on a broad array of crops.
In the letter to EPA’s Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., Warren and Pallone asked for answers to a number of questions regarding the chlorpyrifos decision.
“Administrator Pruitt’s hasty reversal of this decision and intention to delay any further action to the full extent permissible under current law is difficult to understand,” the letter said.
“It appears not to be based on EPA’s existing recent scientific findings about the risk, or any new information that contradicts the findings about the health and safety risks of chlorpyrifos.”
The lawmakers want the OIG to explore Pruitt’s rationale for the decision and determine whether he followed the Administrative Procedures Act. In addition, Warren and Pallone ask the OIG to investigate whether Pruitt had “any communication with staff or representatives of Dow Chemical or any pesticide industry trade groups including CropLife America.”
Agricultural groups expressed concern regarding the proposed ban, arguing that doing away with chlorpyrifos could complicate the battle against insects, especially when growers are being encouraged to rotate chemistries to guard against insect resistance.
Corn accounts for chlorpyrifos’ largest agriculture market as far as total pounds used because, overall, there are more corn acres than soybean acres, according to EPA. However, in recent years, use of chlorpyrifos has expanded in soybeans and has been on the decline in corn.
According to Dow AgroSciences’ website, chlorpyrifos use in soybeans expanded from about 200,000 acres in 2004 to about 8 million acres in 2008. Dow estimated chlorpyrifos was applied to about 11% of soybean acres planted in 2008.
Read the letter here: http://bit.ly/…
Todd Neeley can be reached at email@example.com
Follow him on Twitter @toddneeleyDTN