A federal appeals court slapped down a lawsuit filed by environmentalists seeking to get the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban a widely-used pesticide.
A panel of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled EPA had complied with a previous judicial order to respond to a petition filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Pesticide Action Network North America in 2007.
“Although EPA dragged its heels for nearly a decade, it has now done what we ordered it to do,” federal judges ruled.
The ruling is a major blow to environmentalists who have been trying for years to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is widely-used by farms across the country to keep bugs from ruining food.
“The environmental organizations had asked the 9th Circuit to short-circuit the process established by Congress to evaluate the safety of existing pesticides,” EPA Spokesperson Amy Graham said in a statement.
Environmentalists argue chlorpyrifos “can lead to increased risk of learning disabilities, including reductions in IQ, developmental delay, and behavioral problems, such as ADHD” in infants and young kids.
“The new EPA administration is handing out favors to its cronies in the chemical industry, at the expense of children’s health. This dangerous chemical has no place in our communities or on the food we feed our families,” NRDC’s Erik Olson said in a statement.
“EPA’s own science shows there are unsafe residues of the pesticide on common fruits and vegetables—including kid favorites like apples and oranges. We will continue to fight to keep all kids safe from this toxic chemical,” he said.
The Obama administration proposed banning chlorpyrifos in 2015 based on NRDC’s petition, and the ban would have likely gone through had President Donald Trump not won the 2016 election.
That year, the Obama administration updated its risk assessment for chlorpyrifos, which environmentalists said provided the necessary justification for a ban. The Trump administration disagreed.
In March, EPA denied the environmentalist petition to “revoke all food tolerances and cancel all registration” for chlorpyrifos. Dow Chemical, which manufacturers the chemical, applauded EPA’s ruling.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also celebrated EPA’s refusal to ban chlorpyrifos. EPA already restricts products containing chlorpyrifos for home and agricultural use.
NRDC and others sued, alleging the EPA broke the law because its March ruling “contained no new safety findings, and made no final determination as to whether chlorpyifos food tolerances must be revoked,” according to court opinion.
Appeals judges disagreed, and ruled in favor of the EPA. The court said environmentalists’ objections to EPA’s ruling should go through administrative processes.
“The 9th Circuit refused and this victory affords EPA the necessary time to conduct a proper evaluation under the law of the science and the studies on chlorpyrifos and provide clarity about the pesticide’s safety to the American people,” Graham said.
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