A federal appeals court dealt a blow to activists’ attempts to override the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision not to ban the controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals delivered its ruling on procedural grounds, opining that the coalition, led by the Pesticide Action Network North America, hadn’t followed proper protocol.
The three-judge panel opined that PANNA and its allies would first have to submit a grievance directly to the EPA before petitioning the courts.
“PANNA’s complaints arrive at our doorstep too soon,” read the judges’ opinion.
“Now that the EPA has issued its denial, substantive objections must first be made through the administrative process mandated by statute,” they wrote.
Under the leadership of administrator and former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, the EPA undertaken a series of steps to deregulate certain substances.
Among the most controversial was the reversal of a general restriction on the use of chlorpyrifos in agriculture. Studies conducted during the Obama administration showed a correlation between the presence of the pesticide in crops and the development of neurophysiological defects in infants and young children.
However, the research hasn’t been without its critics – among them Pruitt, who questioned whether adequate evidence exists to limit chlorpyrifos spraying.
If the ban were implemented, it would halt American farmers from using one of the world’s most commonly deployed pesticides.
Pruitt claimed in spring that the reversal was a form of ‘regulatory certainty,’ designed to reassure farmers who rely on the chemical to protect their crops.
“By reversing the previous administration’s steps to ban one of the most widely used pesticides in the world, we are returning to using sound science in decision-making – rather than predetermined results,” he said.
Even when Barack Obama was sitting on the Oval Office, some individuals within the EPA had questioned the sense of cutting back on chlorpyrifos.
“I agree very much with the scientific advisory panel,” said Dr. William Banner of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Speaking of the studies most commonly cited in anti-chlorpyrifos statements, he said “that they did not show any causal link. What they showed was an association.”
Patti Goldman, a lawyer with Earthjustice, said he was disappointed with the court’s decision.
“We’re disappointed, because delay means more children will be exposed to this nasty pesticide before it’s banned,” she said. “But the decision to keep it on the market is so blatantly illegal that this is really just a bump in the road.”
PANNA and Earthjustice’s attempts at litigation are supported by half a dozen state attorneys general, led by Eric Schneiderman of New York state.