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.

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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Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna