On March 29, 2017, then-Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to overrule the agency’s scientists and allow the continued use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos.
In 2016, EPA scientists concluded that chlorpyrifos poses a risk of nervous system damage and birth defects in children. According to the New York Times, chlorpyrifos was banned from most household uses nearly two decades ago, but it is still used today “at about 40,000 farms on about 50 different types of crops, ranging from almonds to apples.”
The decision — which came less than two months after Pruitt took over the agency — to reverse the EPA’s previous findings on chlorpyrifos raised questions about whether Pruitt received policy direction from an industry group.
Weakening the Toxic Substances Control Act
In June 2017, the EPA altered the “framework rules” that govern how the agency selects chemicals to assess for safety and how it makes its safety determinations under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The law had undergone a major update in 2016, and the new rules released by EPA in June 2017 were significantly weaker and less health-protective than previous versions.
The changes closely aligned with requests made by industry groups and came after Nancy Beck, a high-level employee of the American Chemistry Council, left her ACC post to join the EPA.
What we’re seeking:
- Communications between EPA officials and industry groups, such as pesticide manufacturers, that have a stake in weakening regulations;
- Records concerning President Donald Trump’s appointment of pesticide lobbyist Michael Dourson to the role of assistant administrator at the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention — a controversial nomination that was eventually withdrawn;
- Records that will shed light on policy influence from outside industry groups and chemical companies on changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act;
- Communications with private industry groups concerning changes to the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), a set of quality standards that the EPA itself has estimated prevent thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks, and asthma attacks every year;
- Guidance documents and communications reflecting attempts to hinder inspections of ethylene oxide (EtO), a carcinogen used in the production of other chemical products;
- Communications between EPA officials and the American Chemistry Council, Chemours Company, and the law firm Holland & Knight, including emails concerning perfluorinated compounds, a group of chemicals known to cause health complications; and
- Records related to a letter Rep. Frank Pallone sent to the EPA concerning reports that the agency had worked to suppress a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study on the health effects of perfluorinated compounds.