While head of the Environmental Protection Agency, former Administrator Scott Pruitt refused to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos — an effort the Obama administration had undertaken before him — but a federal appeals court on Thursday overturned Pruitt’s decision.
The decision is a major win for environmentalists and health advocates. The EPA’s own research, as recently as 2016, linked chlorpyrifos to developmental and neurological disorders, especially in children and infants.
The Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the federal law governing pesticides, requires the EPA to ban the allowance of a pesticide on food if it finds any harm from exposure to it.
The Trump adminsitration violated the law when Pruitt failed to revoke the “tolerances” of chlorpyrifos — a regulatory term for how much pesticide residue is permitted on foods — despite the fact the EPA’s research found evidence of harm.
“There was no justification for the EPA’s decision in its 2017 order to maintain a tolerance for chlorpyrifos in the face of scientific evidence that its residue on food causes neurodevelopmental damage to children,” Judge Jed Rakoff wrote in the 2-1 opinion in the case, titled League of United Latin American Citizens v. Andrew Wheeler.
He accused EPA of an “utter failure” to respond to objections to Pruitt’s denial.
“The time has come to put a stop to this patent evasion,” wrote Rakoff, who was nominated to the bench by former President Clinton.
The EPA was ordered to revoke the residue tolerances for chlorpyrifos as well as all approvals for its use — which includes crops like corn, almonds and cotton — within 60 days.