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Three states sue EPA over delay on enhanced pesticide safety training


Photo: fatihhoca/iStockphoto

Albany, NY — Attorneys general from New York, California and Maryland have filed a lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to indefinitely delay a requirement for employers to provide enhanced training intended to protect farmworkers, pesticide handlers and their families from exposure to pesticides.

The suit, filed May 30 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, charges that the Trump administration EPA has blocked improved protections that the Obama EPA approved. The attorneys general claim that EPA has violated the Administrative Procedures Act’s judicial review provision, and is not protecting humans and the environment from harmful pesticide use as required by federal law.

Pesticide exposure has been linked to cancer, Parkinson’s disease and asthma, according to the agency.

EPA bolstered its Agricultural Worker Protection Standard in 2015, with “critical improvements to the previous training requirements, including significantly expanding the content for pesticide safety training, requiring more frequent training, establishing recordkeeping requirements to verify training and setting qualifications for trainers,” the lawsuit states. Employers would be required to implement the new training within 180 days after the agency gave notice that the updated provisions were available.

However, on Dec. 21 the agency published a notice in the Federal Register stating that it is reconsidering some aspects of the 2015 rule, indefinitely delaying the requirement for employers to enact the stronger content, training and recordkeeping even though the new training literature had been prepared and was available.

According to a press release from New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood, EPA explained that it refused to publish the notice because the agency’s decision, at the completion of reconsideration, to revise the 2015 WPS meant the expanded training materials would have to be changed accordingly and would cause more work and more costs to developers of the training materials and EPA reviewers.

“EPA did not explain how publishing the notice of availability would create extra work or costs for developers or EPA reviewers, given that training materials had already been prepared, approved by EPA, and made accessible on the Pesticide Educational Resources Collaborative website (pesticideresources.org) through a cooperative agreement with the agency,” the release states.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs cite federal statistics regarding the danger of agricultural work, the number of pesticide-related injuries and illnesses, and studies showing adverse effects of pesticide residue on workers’ families.

The attorneys general are seeking a judgment that includes EPA immediately publishing a notice in the Federal Register that the enhanced training materials are available.

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