Federal Court Blocks EPA From Rolling Back Pesticide Ban

Tom Johnson | August 10, 2018 | Energy & Environment
Appeals court says federal agency can’t ease restrictions on chlorpyrifos, so New Jersey doesn’t have to enact its own prohibition

New Jersey might not have to ban the use of chlorpyrifos, a potentially harmful pesticide, after all.

The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday was ordered by a federal appeals court to prohibit the use of the chemical, reversing a stance taken by the regulatory agency earlier in the Trump administration.

The decision by the EPA reversed a ban initiated by the prior administration on CPS, which is a restricted-use pesticide in New Jersey, meaning it can only by purchased and used by certified and licensed applicators.

In its decision, the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit found federal law requires the EPA to ban any pesticide on food that is a threat to public health, ordering the agency to ban its use within 60 days.

Apples, grapes, soybeans and more

CPS, widely used on a variety of crops like apples, grapes, and soybeans, is effective against a broad range of harmful insects. Last year, shortly after the EPA backed off banning the insecticide, dozens of farmworkers in California became sick after it was sprayed on an orchard and drifted into a field where they were working.

The court ruling was hailed by environmentalists. “It’s important the courts step in when the government does not do its job,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

“The Trump administration may not care about the health and safety of farmworkers, but the court is telling them they must protect them from this dangerous chemical,” he added.

Chlorpyrifos is manufactured by Dow Agrosciences, a subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Co. Manufacturers voluntarily phased out the compound for residential use in 2001 under an agreement with the federal agency.

Following former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to back off the ban, lawmakers in New Jersey introduced legislation that would have banned the use of CPS. The bill never made it to the floor of either house in the last legislative session, but has been introduced again this year.