The attorneys general of California, Maryland and New York sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency saying it illegally suspended the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard, which mandates occupational safety training relating to pesticide exposure.
“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is not above the law,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “He does not get to do away with protections simply because he does not like them. It’s because of agricultural workers – many of whom are immigrants – that families across America can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Specifically, the states say Pruitt violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs the way federal agencies alter or establish regulations while setting up judicial oversight.
Federal standards for farmworkers were first established in 1992, after a rash of injuries and illnesses from pesticide exposure caught the attention of regulators.
The rules were updated in 2015 during the Obama administration, with the EPA determining that several high-profile incidents of pesticide exposure could have been avoided with more intensive training sessions.
Leading up to the decision, the agency took in more than 2,400 public comments along with compiling a record over 15 years of meetings with interested parties, Becerra said.
The Trump administration overturned the regulations without proper public notice and opportunities for public comment.
“Pesticides are meant to be poisonous,” said New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood in a statement. “Yet, Trump’s EPA is purposefully denying farmworkers the tools they need to protect themselves and their families from these dangerous chemicals.”
Acute pesticide poisoning affects approximately 1,400 per 100,000 farm workers each year in New York alone, according to Underwood’s statement
This number may be conservative due to underreporting and deficiencies in oversight data.
Pesticide overexposure can cause a variety of health issues ranging from headaches and nausea to seizures, respiratory problems and death. This does not include other more pernicious diseases that result from prolonged or chronic exposure.
Pesticide exposure is of particular concern for the children of farmworkers whose development may be impaired even if the exposure is residual.
For this reason, proponents of the regulations say robust training protocols for agricultural employees will improve public health outcomes.
The three states have been frequent plaintiffs in lawsuits against the Trump administration.
Wednesday’s suit marks the 11th time the Golden State has sued the EPA, with several other legal actions against other Trump administration departments pending in various federal courts.