A federal appeals court in San Francisco has given the Environmental Protection Agency 90 days to justify why a widely used pesticide should remain on the market.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was responding to a lawsuit by environmental and farmworker groups seeking a ban on chlorpyrifos, which is known to have links to severe, negative health effects on children’s developing brains.
The groups sued after then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt reversed an Obama-era effort to ban the pesticide, which is widely sprayed on citrus fruit and other crops. The attorneys general for several states, including California, Washington, New York and Massachusetts, joined the case.
Last summer, a three-judge panel of the court ordered the EPA to ban all sales of the pesticide. The court decided to reconsider that ruling with a slate of 11 judges, and those judges Friday gave the EPA the deadline to respond to the plaintiffs' objections.
"We are reviewing the court’s order and will be taking final action on the administrative objections before the agency within 90 days,” said EPA spokesperson James Hewitt.
This court's order is the latest step in a battle that began in 2007. Attorney Marisa Ordonia with Earthjustice commended the move, but says it’s unlikely the EPA under the Trump administration will ban the pesticide on its own.
“If EPA’s response in 90 days is to uphold its denial of the 2007 petition, we will go back to the Court and make our case for why — based on the science, the law, and the agency record—EPA must ban this toxic nerve agent.”
In January, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation put limits on the agricultural use of chlorpyrifos, though it's still allowed in the agricultural production of crops such as almonds, alfalfa and citrus if growers can show they've considered other options. A recent UCLA study found that county agricultural officials are not doing enough to explore alternatives.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.