Democratic Senators introduced legislation on Tuesday to ban the use of controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos in American agriculture.
The proposal is rooted in a growing liberal animus against Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, whose policies have set the EPA on a course adrift from its usual agenda.
Earlier in the year, Pruitt moved to halt a ban on chlorpyrifos that was scheduled to take effect midway through summer. The decision was made on grounds that no scientific consensus has yet been reached on whatever risks the pesticide might pose.
Critics of chlorpyrifos claim the chemical can stunt neurophysiological development in young children, leading to lifelong defects and disabilities.
While some studies conducted by academics as well as the government have reached a similar conclusion, the reality isn’t clear-cut – the results of chlorpyrifos studies were being debated within the EPA even when Obama was still in office.
“By revising 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,” announced Pruitt in March.
The bill to ban the substance comes days after a federal court rejected arguments from a coalition of anti-chlorpyrifos activists.
While the ruling refrained from drawing judgment on the pesticide, the judge reckoned the case to be out of jurisdiction.
Without any help from politicians on Capitol Hill, activists would have to deal with an increasingly unsympathetic Environmental Protection Agency. The court decision determined that any legal complaints against the EPA’s stance on chlorpyrifos would first have to be gauged and evaluated by the agency itself. Only if the EPA rejected the arguments of activists would they be able to take their cause further.
Citing research conducted by scientists during the tenure of President Barack Obama, Democrats laid down their rationale for potential legislation.
“The science hasn’t changed since the EPA proposed to ban chlorpyrifos in 2015 and 2016, only the politics have,” said Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico. “And we aren’t going to let politics get in the way of children’s health.”
Udall, the bill’s main sponsor, gave his remarks at an advocacy conference for farmworkers, who are also endangered by the potential risks of chlorpyrifos.
“Administrator Pruitt may choose to put aside science, public health and environmental protection in favor of big chemical profits, but Congress should not,” continued Udall.
According to The Hill, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-NY) is joining Udall as a co-sponsor for the bill, while Rep. Nydia Velazquez is introducing similar legislation in the House.