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Environmental Groups Worry About Fate of Pesticide Ban Under Trump

An environmental advocacy group recently raised concerns that the incoming Trump administration would alter or cancel a proposal to further restrict the use of a controversial insecticide.

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An environmental advocacy group recently raised concerns that the incoming Trump administration would alter or cancel a proposal to further restrict the use of a controversial insecticide.

The Seattle-based Sightline Institute wrote last month that the president-elect's prospective appointees are "likely to be much more accommodating to the petrochemical industry and much less protective of environmental and public health protections" than the current administration.

The group particularly worried about what that would mean for a proposed ban on the use of chlorpyrifos on food crops.

The EPA banned household uses of chlorpyrifos in 2000 after thousands of illnesses were linked to the chemical. The agency added restrictions around schools and other sensitive locations in 2012.

Farmers, however, continued to spray the pesticide on fields of apples, oranges, grapes, broccoli and other crops, which prompted calls from environmental and health groups for a complete ban.

Critics, citing farm workers sickened by short-term exposure as well as links to neurodevelopmental problems, filed a petition asking the EPA to ban the chemical nationwide, and after the agency ignored its request, they filed a federal lawsuit.

A court ordered the EPA to respond to the petition by March of this year, and a rule announced in 2015 proposed a ban on food uses of chlorpyrifos.

Strong criticism from Dow Chemical prompted the EPA to re-evaluate its analysis, but the agency again proposed revoking all food tolerances for the chemical in November.

The EPA took public comments on the rule through Tuesday, and responsibility for implementing the ban will fall to the Trump administration. Criticism of the rule from industry groups raised concerns that the EPA would not follow through on the proposal.

Dow said that the revised analysis lacked transparency and "scientific rigor" and stressed the importance of chlorpyrifos to the nation's agriculture sector. Trade group California Citrus Mutual also criticized a "broad-brush approach" to the chemical as unfair to growers.

A report from The New York Times this week, meanwhile, highlighted the tendency of Scott Pruitt β€” Trump's nominee to head the EPA β€” to collaborate with industry in environmental cases during his tenure as Oklahoma attorney general.

β€œWe’re all wondering what will happen next,” Center for Biological Diversity senior scientist Nathan Donley recently told The Intercept. β€œThat’s what keeps me awake at night.”

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