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Trump EPA Slammed for Ag Giant's 'Absurdly Low' Pesticide Fine
The company, a subsidiary of Swiss biotech giant Syngenta AG, agreed to pay a civil penalty of $150,000 and spend another $400,000 on worker protection training sessions.
"Reducing pesticide exposure for the millions of farmworkers who cultivate our food is a high priority for EPA," said Alexis Strauss, EPA's acting regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. "This settlement will bring to Hawaii and Pacific Island growers much-needed training to protect agricultural workers."
That fine, however, is a tiny fraction of the $4.8 million in civil penalties initially sought by President Obama's EPA.
According to an EPA complaint, on Jan. 29, 2016, 19 workers entered a Syngenta field recently sprayed with a restricted use organophosphate insecticide. Ten of these workers had to be taken to the hospital for medical treatment.
The EPA alleged that Syngenta misused the pesticide "Lorsban Advanced," and failed to notify workers to avoid the field. The active ingredient in "Lorsban Advanced" happens to be chlorpyrifos, a controversial insecticide linked to a host of health and environmental problems. It was said that Syngenta allowed workers to enter the site without protective gear and did not provide adequate decontamination supplies at the field, nor did it supply prompt transportation for emergency medical care.
Then, in an amended complaint filed this month, Syngenta again violated pesticide use rules in January 2017 after a worker sprayed chlorpyrifos on a field but did warn work crews about the treated areas. One worker who said he was exposed experienced "adverse health effects" as a result.
Chlorpyrifos is widely used in citrus, nuts and orchards. Chemical maker Dow Chemical sells about 5 million pounds of it in the U.S. each year.
But chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic and associated with neurodevelopmental harms in children. Furthermore, the EPA released a report indicating that that 97 percent of the more than 1,800 animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act are likely to be harmed by the commonly used insecticide.
Just last month, the National Marine Fisheries Service reported that chlorpyrifos can harm salmon and their habitat to the point that their survival and recovery are at risk.
Environmental groups have condemned the Trump EPA's tiny fine against Syngenta.
Achitoff noted that the EPA often seeks the maximum penalty when it files a complaint and lowers the amount for the fine that's ultimately imposed. However, "there's such a huge difference" in this case.
Achitoff also said that the EPA and Syngenta were close to resolving the case for a larger amount in 2016 when Obama was still president. But he said Syngenta pulled back after the 2016 election so they could pay a lesser fine under the new Trump administration.
"And now a year and a half later, we see that they're absolutely right. They could get a much better deal under Trump," Achitoff said.
Lori Ann Burd, the environmental health director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told the AP that the lower fine is "a win for the pesticide maker, not the farmworkers carelessly exposed to a dangerous pesticide."
"This absurdly low fine just reassures pesticide makers what they already knew, that as long as Trump is president they're free to do whatever they want," she added.
Syngenta did not answer the AP's question of whether it was close to a settlement in 2016 but decided to wait until Trump took office for a lower fine.
The company said in a statement: "Agricultural worker safety is a top priority for Syngenta and safe use training has for many years been an integral part of the way the company does business worldwide."
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.