E.P.A. Promised 'a New Day' for the Agriculture Industry, Documents Reveal

The New York Times highlights details from more than 700 pages of internal U.S. Environmental Protection Agency documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information request. These internal memos show, the article states, “how the E.P.A.’s new staff, appointed by President Trump, pushed the agency’s career staff to draft a ruling that would deny the decade-old petition by environmentalists to ban the pesticide, chlorpyrifos.” Chlorpyrifos is widely used in agriculture, particularly on apples, oranges, strawberries, almonds and other fruits, although it was banned from residential use in 2000. Scientists at the EPA have recommended the chemical be banned from use on farms and produce as it has been linked to lower I.Q.s and developmental delays in agricultural workers and their children. According to this article, in the weeks before EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to reject the advice of the agency’s own scientists, he told farming industry executives, who did not want the pesticide to be banned, that he was listening to their pleas and that it is “a new day, and a new future, for a common-sense approach to environmental protection.” Amy Graham, a spokeswoman for the EPA, says the denial of the petition to ban chlorpyrifos was justified. “Taking emails out of context doesn’t change the fact that we continue to examine the science surrounding chlorpyrifos,” she said. The article details the various exchanges between EPA staff, the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Environmental groups say the emails demonstrate that the EPA under Pruitt is doing favors for industry. “What is clear from these documents is that Administrator Pruitt’s abrupt action to vacate the ban on chlorpyrifos was an ideological — not a health-based decision,” said Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group. “In fact, the Pruitt E.P.A. has shown time and time again that it seems to only be willing to act quickly when it comes to dismantling health-protective rules like the proposed ban on chlorpyrifos at the behest of industry.” more