Trump’s EPA — widely expected to devastate the world’s ecology in service to business interests — took its first toxic step last week by refusing to ban chlorpryifos, a chemical that EPA has known for years is a danger to America’s drinking water.
Yesterday, the National Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network asked a federal court to issue detailed instructions to Trump’s EPA about what scientific decisions EPA is obliged to make about chlorpyrifos under the Food Quality Protection Act and when those decisions must be made.
A decade ago, in 2007, NRDC petitioned EPA to revoke food tolerances for chlorpyrifos because the science showed it to be a neuro-toxic pesticide that posed safety risks to drinking water. Delays ensued. Additional delays followed the original delays. Seven years passed.
Three years ago, in December 2014, EPA found unsafe drinking water contamination from chlorpyrifos and, as a result, the agency proposed to revoke tolerances for the chemical by October 30, 2015. Further delays ensued. Six months ago, EPA updated its risk assessment and found that the safety hazards of chlorpyrifos were even greater than it had determined they were a year and a half earlier. The court, now tired of the “egregious delays,” set March 31, 2017, as the deadline for EPA to issue its final revocation order.
Last week, however, Trump’s EPA ignored both the court’s various orders and the agency’s risk assessments and claimed, without basis, that the science is unsettled. Trump’s EPA claimed it needed a new delay of five additional years, on top of the 10 years that have already elapsed, to understand its own science. Trump’s EPA also claimed, falsely, that the burden is on the plaintiffs to prove the chemical is unsafe when in fact, the Food Quality Protection Act places the burden on EPA to show that the chemical is safe, not the other way around. The Trump EPA’s misunderstanding of its obligations is creating an additional, further delay.
NRDC’s new filing is yet another attempt to stop the delay. NRDC now asks the court to explain to Trump’s EPA how the law at issue works, what the various procedural steps are, how long each step should take, to what degree of judicial review each step is subject, and what outcome EPA is compelled by the science and the law to reach.
NRDC is asking the court to teach Trump’s EPA leadership what EPA’s job is, and to remind Trump’s EPA that executive agency’s exist to execute the laws passed by Congress — they do not exist to indulge the ignorance of an anti-intellectual regime. In other words, NRDC is asking the court to explain to the Trump Administration how the federal government works.
The Court may also wish to assign the first chapter of Bleak House to the Trump Administration as summer reading — no extensions allowed.