In late March, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt decided that his agency would not place an outright ban on a pesticide manufactured by Dow Chemical called chlorpyrifos.
The decision came after a federal court ordered the EPA to make a final decision on whether or not to ban the pesticide, which the Obama administration had proposed banning in 2015. The chemical has been on the market in the U.S. since 1965 under the brand name Lorsban and indoor use of the chemical has been banned for more than a decade.
In its decision to allow the pesticide to continue being used in the U.S., the EPA went against its own agency’s findings that the pesticide presented unnecessary risks to American citizens. And while Pruitt’s EPA officials did not deny those findings, they did claim additional studies on the chemical were still needed before they could ban it, thus allowing the product’s continued use.
In the three and a half months since the EPA’s chlorpyrifos decision, the story has become far more complex than the usual “regulators siding with industry” trope that has played out far too often.
One of the most interesting developments was from a report in early July indicating Pruitt met with the CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, a few weeks prior to his decision not to ban chlorpyrifos. While the EPA claims that the meeting was simply a brief introduction when the two men met in a hallway during a conference in Houston on March, the timing of the “chance” meeting has sparked talk that it could have potentially influenced Pruitt’s decision on the chemical, which came just a few weeks later.
Originally, Pruitt and Liveris had scheduled an official meeting together while at the conference, but an EPA spokesperson told the Associated Press that the meeting had been canceled due to scheduling conflicts and that the two men did not discuss chlorpyrifos in their brief hallway interaction.
Immediately following Pruitt’s chlorpyrifos decision, several groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), filed a suit against the EPA to reverse the decision. The suit claims that the agency did not reach a proper scientific conclusion on the pesticide because the EPA gave it the greenlight before all relevant studies could be concluded and reported.