In deciding to allow the chemical to continue to be used in orchards such as those in the Northwest, the EPA, under new Administrator Scott Pruitt, rejected scientific conclusions made during the Obama administration.
The Environmental Protection Agency has rejected a petition from environmental groups that sought to ban a pesticide widely used in Northwest fruit orchards, a decision that reversed an Obama administration proposal to end its use.
The chemical is called chlorpyrifos, part of a class of insecticides known as organophosphates that act as neurotoxins.
In a statement Wednesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the decision to reject the petition “provides regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos … 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..”
The decision reflects a sharp change in direction for the EPA under Pruitt, the former Oklahoma state attorney general who came into the Trump administration as a harsh critic of the agency he now leads.
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Environmental groups said Pruitt’s decision ignores overwhelming evidence that shows even small amounts of chlorpyrifos can interfere with brain development of fetuses, infants and children.
Patti Goldman, a Seattle-based Earthjustice attorney who has waged the legal battle in federal court to end the use of chlorpyrifos, called the EPA decision “unconscionable.”
Goldman said the plaintiffs would be going back to federal court to try to force the EPA to change its decision.
Chlorpyrifos was banned from residential use in 2000, but it has continued to be widely used in agriculture, including on apple, cherry and other crops in the Northwest.
During President Barack Obama’s second term, the EPA proposed ending its use on food.
The agency also expressed concerns about the health of farmworkers involved with mixing and spraying the chemical, or those entering areas where it had been sprayed.
But the EPA, under Pruitt, came to different conclusions, finding the scientific evidence of risks was not strong enough to justify banning the chemical.
Trump administration U.S. Department of Agriculture officials also disagreed with the scientific methodology used by the Obama administration, according to…