Feb. 8, 2019
A federal appeals court is reconsidering its ruling last year that ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban a particular pesticide.
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said Wednesday that it had accepted the arguments the Trump administration made and will rehear the case, potentially overturning an August ruling by a three-judge panel of the court. The rehearing will be in front of all of the court’s judges, or en banc.
The decision is a big victory for the Trump administration, but a loss for environmental and labor advocates, who point to the EPA’s own science showing a link between chlorpyrifos and health problems including neurological disorders, particularly in children.
Then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt refused in 2017 to ban the pesticide from use on food crops. In a 2-1 decision, the Ninth Circuit court said there was “no justification” for declining the petition, and accused Pruitt of an “utter failure” to enforce the law.
“EPA is pleased that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has agreed to rehear its earlier decision in this matter, and we will work closely with the Department of Justice in preparation for the rehearing,” EPA spokeswoman Molly Block said of the court’s decision.
The EPA appealed the ruling in September, saying the order conflicts with Supreme Court precedent that the issue should have been returned to the agency for reconsideration, without “directing specific action.”
It also said the ruling conflicts with the processes outlined in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, the law governing EPA oversight of pesticides.
Environmentalists were disappointed at the rehearing order.
“EPA’s own scientists have said for more than two years that chlorpyrifos is harmful, particularly to children,” Patti Goldman, an Earthjustice attorney involved in the case, said in a statement.
“Any delay to ban this toxic chemical is a tragedy. Chlorpyrifos should be banned based on the agency’s own scientific conclusion, and the law.”
The appeals court’s decision to rehear the case was the result of a majority vote of the judges. The court did not detail the vote count.