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Judge rules EPA must proceed with pesticide rulesJudge rules EPA must proceed with pesticide rules

EPA wrong to delay action on Certification of Pesticide Applicators rule originally rolled out in 2017.

Jacqui Fatka

March 28, 2018

3 Min Read
Judge rules EPA must proceed with pesticide rules

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency illegally delayed implementation of key pesticide rules that, in part, prevent minors from working with the most dangerous pesticides.

Besides requiring applicators to be at least 18 years old, the revised 2017 Certification of Pesticide Applicators (CPA) rule also improves the quality of training materials and says certified pesticide applicators must be able to read and understand the instructions. The main purpose of the CPA rule is to protect workers and the public by ensuring that those who handle the most dangerous pesticides are properly trained and certified.

In January 2017, EPA promulgated a rule designed to strengthen the regulations surrounding the certification and use of restricted-use pesticides (RUP). The pesticide rule had an effective date of March 6, 2017, and established a three-year implementation schedule, which required states to submit certification plans consistent with the rule by March 4, 2020.

Starting on Jan. 26, 2017, however, EPA abruptly reversed course and began delaying the March 6 effective date of the rule, largely without notice and comment, the court document explained. In response, a number of farmworker unions and related advocacy groups sought a declaratory judgment that: (1) declares EPA’s delaying of the pesticide rule failed to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act, (2) vacates EPA’s various rules delaying the pesticide rule’s effective date and (3) declares the pesticide rule to be in effect.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Farmworker Association of Florida, United Farm Workers, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and Pesticide Action Network North America.

According to EPA, there are about 1 million certified applicators nationwide. Before delaying implementation, the agency said the revised CPA rule could prevent some 1,000 acute poisonings every year.

In its ruling, the court noted that before the delay, EPA made numerous findings of the inadequacy of the old regulations as they related to RUPs as well as the threat RUPs posed to people, particularly farmworkers.

“If implementation of the pesticide rule is delayed, (PCUN) members will continue to be exposed to these dangers and will not benefit from the more stringent regulations provided by the pesticide rule,” northern California district Judge Jeffrey White said.

EPA argued that the plaintiffs and their members will not be deprived of the protections of the CPA rule for any period of time as a result of the delay of the rule’s effective date.

However, White disagreed, noting, “Over one-third of the contemplated three-year implementation period has now been lost to delay. Each week that passes without EPA and the states beginning the process of implementing the pesticide rule makes it that much more likely that the rule cannot be implemented by March 2020 as originally intended.”

The judge also sent a strong message to EPA by rejecting all of the agency's delays for failing to properly notify the public and allow for comments. The court declared the original date of March 6, 2017, as the effective date, making its ruling effective immediately.

“Frequent exposure to agricultural chemicals, combined with inadequate training, undermine health and safety,” PCUN president Ramon Ramirez said. “We need to do everything in our power to protect pesticide applicators, farmworkers and communities from the most toxic pesticides, and the goal of this lawsuit was to do precisely that.”

The ruling comes three months after EPA said it wants to revise crucial parts of the CPA rule and its sister set of guidelines, the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard. It’s still unclear when EPA will open the proposed changes for public comment.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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