Capitol Alert

After Trump administration rejects ban on insecticide, advocates turn to California

Raphael Ortigosa picks oranges at the orchard of Joe Russell in Visalia on March 9, 2017.
Raphael Ortigosa picks oranges at the orchard of Joe Russell in Visalia on March 9, 2017. jvillegas@sacbee.com

Not long after his debut, the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency chief rejected the agency’s assessment of the health risks of a common insecticide earlier this year.

Now advocates are appealing to California to take a stand.

Obama-era EPA experts had recommended that the agency ban the use of chlorpyrifos, an insecticide used on corn, apples, almonds, broccoli and other crops, citing health consequences for farm workers and children.

In March, Scott Pruitt, the EPA chief, rejected a 10-year-old request by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pesticide Action Network North America to ban chlorpyrifos in agriculture. The pesticide already is banned for most residential uses.

“We’ve been waiting far too long for the federal government, so we are going to go to the state,” said Lucia Calderón of Californians for Pesticide Reform, a coalition of 190 organizations pushing to eliminate the chemical.

Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, is joining the coalition and farmworkers outside the state EPA headquarters on I Street at a noon rally Wednesday urging the Department of Pesticide Regulation and Gov. Jerry Brown to ban the “brain-harming” neurotoxin. It was suspected that more than 50 farmworkers harvesting cabbage were exposed to chlorpyrifos near Bakersfield in May, causing sickness and vomiting, according to reports.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined his counterparts in six other states calling for Pruitt to make the necessary safety findings for chlorpyrifos last month. Becerra said Pruitt needs to “put the health of the American people ahead of profits for companies.”

Dow Chemical, which sells the chemical and donated $1 million to Donald Trump’s inauguration, has pushed against calls for a ban.

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WORTH REPEATING: “Let’s see if they have the backbone to do it as a group.”

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CLASS IS IN SESSION: The Assembly Education Committee is taking up a bill Wednesday that could change your morning routine. Senate Bill 328, introduced by Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, would prohibit middle and high schools from starting the school day earlier than 8:30 p.m. Portantino points to studies that show postponing the school day results in higher attendance rates and test scores, among other benefits. Will he earn a passing grade or get schooled by his seven colleagues in Assembly Education? The hearing begins at 1:30 p.m. in room 4202.

IMMIGRATION: Senate Bill 54 essentially turns California into a sanctuary state by prohibiting law enforcement agencies from using their money or resources to help federal immigration enforcement, with some conditions. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León introduced the measure earlier this year in response to Trump’s campaign threats to crack down on undocumented immigrants. Trump’s tough talk may have other consequences, too. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles police chief reported a reduction in domestic violence and sexual assault complaints among Latino residents in Los Angeles who fear deportation. Assembly members David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Eloise Gómez Reyes, D-Grand Terrace, are standing alongside domestic-violence survivors to speak in support of the bill at 10 a.m. in room 317.

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Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

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