States Sue EPA for Failing to Ban Toxic Pesticide
By Farron Cousins
In late March, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt decided that his agency would not place an outright ban on a pesticide manufactured by Dow Chemical called chlorpyrifos.
The decision came after a federal court ordered the EPA to make a final decision on whether or not to ban the pesticide, which the Obama administration had proposed banning in 2015. The chemical has been on the market in the U.S. since 1965 under the brand name Lorsban and indoor use of the chemical has been banned for more than a decade.
In its decision to allow the pesticide to continue being used in the U.S., the EPA went against its own agency's findings that the pesticide presented unnecessary risks to American citizens. And while Pruitt's EPA officials did not deny those findings, they did claim additional studies on the chemical were still needed before they could ban it, thus allowing the product's continued use.
In the three and a half months since the EPA's chlorpyrifos decision, the story has become far more complex than the usual "regulators siding with industry" trope that has played out far too often.
One of the most interesting developments was from a report in early July indicating Pruitt met with the CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, a few weeks prior to his decision not to ban chlorpyrifos. While the EPA claims that the meeting was simply a brief introduction when the two men met in a hallway during a conference in Houston on March, the timing of the "chance" meeting has sparked talk that it could have potentially influenced Pruitt's decision on the chemical, which came just a few weeks later.
Originally, Pruitt and Liveris had scheduled an official meeting together while at the conference, but an EPA spokesperson told the Associated Press that the meeting had been canceled due to scheduling conflicts and that the two men did not discuss chlorpyrifos in their brief hallway interaction.
Immediately following Pruitt's chlorpyrifos decision, several groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), filed a suit against the EPA to reverse the decision. The suit claims that the agency did not reach a proper scientific conclusion on the pesticide because the EPA gave it the greenlight before all relevant studies could be concluded and reported.
Last week, five states and the District of Columbia joined the NRDC's suit against the EPA, claiming that the agency did not fulfill due diligence prior to making the decision on chlorpyrifos.
As reported by The Hill:
"Several groups sued over the decision in June, asking a federal court to force the EPA to take action on the pesticide. The states, led by New York, joined that suit Thursday and also filed a legal complaint of their own directly with the EPA.
'Job Number One for the EPA should be protecting Americans' well-being, especially that of our children,' said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D), who is leading the states' action.
'Yet the administration is jeopardizing our kids' health, allowing the use of a toxic pesticide for which it can't even identify a safe level.'
The other states joining the motion are Maryland, Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia. Together, they allege the EPA did not make a safety finding before continuing to allow the use of chlorpyrifos."
Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin used to kill insects, but exposure in human beings has been linked to devastating side effects, as Earthjustice pointed out:
"Chlorpyrifos is acutely toxic and associated with neurodevelopmental harms in children. Prenatal exposures to chlorpyrifos are associated with lower birth weight, reduced IQ, loss of working memory, attention disorders, and delayed motor development.
Acute poisoning suppresses the enzyme that regulates nerve impulses in the body and can cause convulsions, respiratory paralysis, and, in extreme cases, death. Chlorpyrifos is one of the pesticides most often linked to pesticide poisonings."
The lawsuits from the states and independent organizations likely represent the best chance for reversing the EPA's decision via the court system. The only disappointing fact is that they are necessary. The EPA's suspicious reversal on a chemical like chlorpyrifos is creating a leadership void in protecting public health and the environment. Instead, its actions show a government too willing to put the interests of corporations over the health of the public.
Reposed with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
By Tim Radford
Scientists have calculated yet another item on the human shopping list that makes up the modern world: plastics. They have estimated the mass of all the plastic bottles, bags, cups, toys, instruments and fabrics ever produced and tracked its whereabouts, as yet another index of the phenomenal change to the face of the planet made by recent human advance.
Altogether, since about 1950, with the birth of a new industry, more than 8.3 billion tonnes (or 9.1 tons) of synthetic organic polymers have been generated, distributed and discarded. Of that total, 6.3 billion tonnes are classified as waste.
By Jessica Corbett
As Senate Democrats stay silent on an energy bill that environmental groups call "a pro-fracking giveaway to oil and gas interests that would commit America to decades more of dangerous fossil fuel dependence," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is receiving applause for speaking out against it.
"As a nation, our job is to move away from fossil fuels toward sustainable energy and energy efficiency. This bill does the opposite," Sanders said in a statement.
ExxonMobil filed suit against the federal government last week, claiming that a $2 million fine levied against the company by the Treasury Department is "unlawful" and "capricious."
The Treasury Department fined Exxon Thursday morning, alleging that the oil giant displayed "reckless disregard" of U.S.-Russian sanctions in its dealings with Russian company Rosneft in 2014 under CEO Rex Tillerson.
By Andy Rowell
For years, environmentalists have warned that due to climate change, there will be billions of barrels of oil that we will never be able to burn. These reserves will become what has increasingly been called "stranded assets."
To give you one example: In a new report, Friends of the Earth argued that "The coal, oil and gas in reserves already in production and development globally is more than we can afford to burn. There is no room for any new coal, oil or gas exploration and production.
Late last year, the tiny house community celebrated a watershed moment—an official appendix in the 2018 version of the International Residential Code, the model building code used by most jurisdictions in the U.S.
"There are many things that are monumental in the adoption of tiny house construction codes by the IRC," cheered Thom Stanton, the CEO of small space developer, Timber Trails. "Among them, that architects, designers, builders, community developers and (maybe most importantly) zoning officials have a means of recognizing tiny houses as an official form of permissible dwelling."
The colossal mass of throwaway plastic—from straws to bags to bottles—has grown much faster than recycling and disposal efforts can contain it. You might even say this is obvious, no matter where you look.
Check out this video from National Geographic to watch underwater photographer Huai Su film a diver collecting an endless amount of plastic bottles that litter the seafloor off Xiaoliuqiu Island, Taiwan.
A reef off the coast of Cancún will become the first in the world with its own insurance policy, testing a new strategy meant to encourage local investment in the wellbeing of the reef.
Under the policy, created by insurance company Swiss Re and the Nature Conservancy, local hotels and other organizations dependent on tourism will pay into the policy, receiving reimbursements to repair the reef and local beaches after natural disasters.
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) denounced the USDA's permit for the world's first open-air trials of the Genetically Engineered (GE) Diamondback moth to be released in Geneva, New York.
This announcement came concurrently with the availability of a final environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact for the field release of the GE Diamondback moths. NOFA-NY considers the Environmental Assessment lacking comprehensive health and environmental details.