How is it that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt came to the decision to reject his own agency's science and reject a ban the insecticide chlorpyrifos?
Watchdog group American Oversight and advocacy organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) want to know, and are ready to sue to get to the bottom of the matter.
Pruitt's March 29 decision to deny a 10-year-old petition brought forth by Pesticide Action Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council sparked outrage from public health advocates and environmentalists who say the move—which is what the chemical's maker, Dow, had wanted—was unacceptable in the face of studies linking the nerve agent to numerous adverse effects, from contaminating water to harming children's brain development.
"Public health experts, pediatricians, and EPA scientists all agree that chlorpyrifos is unsafe for children at any level," said EWG senior vice president for government affairs Scott Faber.
"That overwhelming and uniform agreement among experts should have been all the information Administrator Pruitt needed to protect kids from this notorious neurotoxin," Faber said.
But it wasn't, and the groups point to Pruitt's record while serving as Oklahoma Attorney General as an indication of where his motivations lie. Indeed, as ThinkProgress wrote in January, Pruitt's record as AG shows him "slowing environmental regulation, cutting enforcement, and siding with industry." As as Environment America's executive director Margie Alt, put it, "As attorney general he put dirty energy interests and other polluters ahead of protecting public health." Further, as Common Dreams noted last month, "Oklahoma, where Pruitt served as state senator until being elected AG in 2010, led the nation in pesticide-related illnesses and deaths from 2000-2010, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."
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With such factors in mind, American Oversight on Tuesday filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the Department of Agriculture and EPA to seek communications records between agency officials and groups including Dow who may have pushed for the ban to be rejected.
If it doesn't receive the records by the end of the month, the watchdog says it will sue to get them.
"As Oklahoma Attorney General, Scott Pruitt routinely coordinated with industry to roll back environmental safeguards, now he's doing the same thing at the EPA. This time, it's at the expense of our children," said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. "Americans have a right to know who influenced the EPA to suddenly reverse course and put pesticide industry profits ahead of children's health."
Environmental groups last week also asked a federal appeals court to make the EPA take action in line with its own scientists' findings and ban chlorpyrifos.
In the wake of Pruitt's decision, the Baltimore Sun's editorial board wrote that "it's clear that the Trump administration's view of science is somewhere along the lines of its view of facts generally—highly flexible. President Donald Trump's denial of climate change has often been observed as the leading example of this antagonism toward knowledge and academia, but denying the harmfulness of chlorpyrifos will have more immediate consequences—profits for Dow and lifelong damage to children exposed to unsafe levels of the pesticide."