States to Pruitt: Don’t Reverse Course on Dow Insect-Killer

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By Tiffany Stecker

Seven states want the EPA to ban most uses of the pesticide chlorpyrifos, challenging the agency’s decision not to further regulate the chemical.

Attorneys general for California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, and Washington filed objections June 5 asking Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to make a safety determination on the use of chlorpyrifos.

Pruitt on March 29 declined to further regulate the insect-killer, which is linked to neurodevelopmental effects, until Oct. 1, 2022. The move was a U-turn from the EPA’s work to revoke the legal tolerances for the pesticide on food under President Barack Obama. In November 2016, two months before Obama left the White House, the EPA released a scientific assessment indicating that levels of chlorpyrifos on most food crops exceeded the legal safety standard. A year earlier, the agency proposed a ban, but didn’t finalize the move before the new administration came in.

In their appeal, the states argue that a strong federal policy on pesticides is necessary given the nationwide distribution of the food system.

“Action by the states to curtail human exposure would not be fully effective, given the national markets for foods,” the document said. “The states have a strong interest in assuring appropriate federal regulatory action, including a final decision by the administrator about whether existing chlorpyrifos food tolerances are safe and may remain in effect.”

The administrative appeal from the states follows similar objections filed June 5 by a coalition of environmental and farmworker advocacy groups. The filing challenges Pruitt’s order, detailing the scientific and legal justification for a ban. Separately, the organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the EPA’s denial in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ( LULAC v. Pruitt , 9th Cir., 17-71636, 6/5/17 ).

The agency struck a deal with manufacturers in 2000 to suspend indoor uses of the chemical, such as in roach and ant baits. But environmental organizations said the move did not go far enough to protect rural and farmworker communities, and the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network petitioned the EPA in 2007 to revoke uses of the insecticide for food crops.

After a seven year delay, the organizations sued the EPA in 2014 in the Ninth Circuit.

Dow Agrosciences, the original maker of chlorpyrifos, has criticized the science used to justify restrictions, saying the EPA depended on unreliable studies to propose a ban on the pesticide.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tiffany Stecker in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at

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The states' objections are available at

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