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Court Gives EPA Firm Deadline on Chlorpyrifos

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has given the Environmental Protection Agency an additional three months to decide whether to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos.

In a decision issued Friday, August 12, a three-judge panel ordered EPA to make a final decision by March 31, 2017. The court added that it “will not grant any further extensions.” EPA had asked for six more months, and pesticide manufacturers and commodity groups had sought an extra year. Pesticide Action Network North America and the Natural Resources Defense Council said EPA should comply with the December 30 deadline imposed by the court last year.

“The ‘extraordinary circumstances’ claimed this time - that EPA issued its proposed rule before completing two studies that may bear on the Agency’s final rule - is another variation on a theme ‘of partial reports, missed deadlines, and vague promises of future action’ that has been repeated for the past nine years,” the court said, citing its opinion a year ago that criticized the agency’s delay in addressing the environmental groups’ concerns.

“EPA’s continued delay is all the more significant since there are ‘considerable human health interests prejudiced by it,’” the court said.

A scientific advisory panel that reviewed the science behind the agency’s proposal to revoke tolerances for the organophosphate insecticide concluded that EPA should not rely primarily on a long-term epidemiological study conducted by Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH).

One of the panel’s concerns was that the raw data behind the study was unavailable for review. EPA told Agri-Pulse August 3 that it planned to discuss the matter with CCCEH officials. 

“We have contacted Columbia University to set up a conference call to discuss how to obtain data that doesn’t infringe upon confidentiality concerns while satisfying the agency’s need to be transparent,” the agency said.

CCCEH officials have adopted a policy of not commenting on the matter, even though a spokesperson told Bloomberg BNA earlier this year that CCCEH was willing to share the data in some form.

Peter Taback, a CCCEH spokesperson, told the news organization in an email that the school had offered to make the data available “under protocols that ensure the confidentiality of the children who are the subjects of our research. If we have a formal request from EPA, we will, of course, share all data that were gathered with the support of the U.S. government.”

CCCEH receives funding from EPA and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, along with numerous private donors and foundations.

PANNA and NRDC filed a petition with EPA to revoke all uses of chlorpyrifos in 2007. They sued the agency in 2013 and 2014, seeking a writ of mandamus – essentially, an order from the court that would force EPA to respond.

“(At) this stage, a claim of premature rulemaking has come and gone,” the court said August 12. “The requested six-month delay is not justified in light of EPA’s history in this matter as well as the court’s previous extensions.”

Introduced by Dow Chemical in 1965, chlorpyrifos is the active ingredient in Dow AgroSciences’ Lorsban but is also sold under a variety of other trade names. It is registered to control pests in more than 50 crops, including aphids and armyworms in alfalfa, corn rootworm and lesser cornstalk borer in peanuts, and wheat midge in wheat.

This story was written by Stephen Davies for Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc. 

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