Two advocacy groups are suing the EPA for failing to release documents related to the agency’s March decision not to ban a controversial pesticide.
American Oversight and the Environmental Working Group filed a in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to release communications between EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and agricultural interests relating to the March 29 order denying a petition that would have revoked nearly all legal tolerances for chlorpyrifos, a widely used insecticide on vegetable and other crops linked to neurodevelopmental delays in fetuses and children (, D.D.C., 1:17-cv-01227, 6/22/17).
The groups filed a request April 11 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The EPA did not respond to the request within the 20 working days required by law.
“Time and again, Scott Pruitt has been shown to be squarely in the pocket of the industries he’s supposed to regulate, both as Oklahoma Attorney General, and now at the EPA,” American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said in a statement. “His decision to allow the use of chlorpyrifos, despite the scientific consensus, including among EPA experts, that it’s harmful shows clearly that his priority is helping his friends at big chemical companies and not” safety concerns.
Since his nomination to head the EPA, environmental groups have sought to expose what they see as Pruitt’s close relationships with industry groups. The Center for Media & Democracy released 7,564 pages of emails in February depicting the then-Oklahoma attorney general’s close coordination with oil and gas groups and petroleum refiners to challenge federal environmental regulations.
In their lawsuits, the two nonprofits specifically requested copies of communications between Pruitt’s office and Dow Chemical Co., Dow AgroSciences, pesticide trade association CropLife America, and other organizations that opposed the Obama administration’s proposal to revoke the tolerances for pest controls. Dow is the original maker of chlorpyrifos. The EPA first registered the pesticide in 1965.
The EPA head met with Dow Chemical Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris three weeks before issuing the chlorpyrifos decision, according to Pruitt’s recently released .
Pruitt’s decision marked a change from the agency’s course under President Barack Obama. Under a court order, the EPA was set to decide whether to ban the insecticide by March 31. The agency released a human health risk assessment last year finding that chlorpyrifos posed risks to children.
The two challengers are not the only ones interested in seeing more information about the chlorpyrifos decision. There are currently six open inquiries on chlorpyrifos via FOIA, according to the federal government’s online tracking system for public records requests.