EPA Backpedals on Suspension of Farmworker Protections

(CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency backed off the temporary suspension of federal requirements aimed at protecting farm workers on Thursday, following a lawsuit filed by three states two weeks ago.

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has backed down to do what the law requires: implement critical safeguards for agricultural workers,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “This is an important victory for some of America’s hardest workers and for the Rule of Law.”

Becerra and two other attorneys general — from New York and Maryland — sued the EPA last month for failing to enforce a key provision of the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard requiring agricultural employers to give workers training sessions aimed at helping them avoid pesticide exposure.

The EPA implemented the requirement in 2015, after multiple studies found that acute and long-term pesticide exposure could be better avoided through more education.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood called the suspension a threat to worker health.

“Pesticides are meant to be poisonous,” she said. “Yet, Trump EPA is purposefully denying farmworkers the tools they need to protect themselves and their families from these dangerous chemicals.”

The decision comes as Pruitt is under mounting pressure from critics on the left and an increasing chorus of conservative voices calling for a possible ouster in the wake of allegations of ethics violations.

Environmentalists don’t trust the agency to enforce rules regarding chemical exposure, saying the Trump administration favors industry.

The EPA has garnered criticism after suspending the consideration of a ban on chlorpyrifos, an insecticide with links to public health problems.

The agency is also under scrutiny as it considers regulations pertaining to a class of chemicals —known as perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid — trace amounts of which have shown up in drinking water supply.

Pruitt held a summit on the matter in late May.

The compounds are linked to cancer, thyroid disease and other ailments.

Exposure to pesticides can be toxic according to health officials, while acute exposure can be deadly to farmworkers.

 

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