EPA Approval of Calif. Pesticide Laws Upheld

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The 9th Circuit refused Friday to review a federal policy that let California approve weakened revisions to its pesticide laws.
     At issue is approval that the Environmental Protection Agency gave California in 2012 for its plan to reduce ozone and pesticide levels in farming areas throughout the state.
     El Comite Para el Bienestar de Earlimart and other challengers had called such approval “arbitrary and capricious,” but a three-judge 9th Circuit panel found Friday that “the EPA’s interpretation is supported by the language of the Pesticide Element and the documents incorporated therein.”
     “It also is consistent with the California SIP’s overall regulatory purpose,” Judge Mary Schroeder wrote for the court, abbreviating state implementation plan.
     El Comite and the other challengers had urged the court to find that the EPA let California back-slide provisions after a deadline, taking issue with last-minute revisions to California’s Pesticide Element plan that set emissions standards lower than those to which the state had originally agreed.
     Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that California originally committed to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from agricultural pesticides by 20 percent in the San Joaquin Valley by 2005, and that the EPA subsequently allowed the state to set a goal of just 12 percent.
     The 9th Circuit concluded Friday, however, that California submitted paperwork to the EPA that set a standard of 12 percent reductions in the San Joaquin Valley and that 20 percent was just a goal or target.
     While El Comite produced a document called the Wells Memo to show that the state initially committed to a 20 percent reduction in the farming region, Schroeder called the language of the opposing documents “ambiguous” and deferred to the EPA’s acceptance of the 12 percent reduction standard.
     The environmental groups had also complained about the EPA’s failure to gain assurances from California that its VOC emissions plan would not expose “Latino schoolchildren to a disparate impact from pesticide use.”
     While El Comite and the others said the EPA should have done more extensive studies to prove the state’s new rules would reduce pesticide emissions and not harm the environment, Schroeder found that the challengers “provided no proof of a current or ongoing violation.”
     She also said the EPA did get reports from California officials on the possible effects of the new emission rules.
     El Comite also challenged the EPA’s conclusion that the state’s plan was enforceable and that it would assure compliance in years of high fumigant emissions.
     Again Schroeder sided with the EPA ruling the agency did consult with California officials and that data showed no violations of emissions limits.
     Representatives for the plaintiffs did not return requests for comment by press time.

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