By Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice
Several years ago, researchers studying environmental causes of childhood autism found a link to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide widely used across the U.S. on staple crops like corn, wheat, and citrus.
That study and others that followed led the EPA to ban the use of chlorpyrifos for most indoor applications, but agricultural use continued, poisoning farmworkers and others. Thanks to a series of Earthjustice lawsuits, the EPA finally proposed banning this brain-damaging pesticide in 2015. But as soon as President Trump took office, the chemical industry lobbied successfully to derail the ban. We sued, invoking the wealth of scientific data showing there is no safe level of exposure to chlorpyrifos. And in August, we won a resounding court order requiring regulators to finalize the proposed ban.
This victory is just one of several wins Earthjustice has racked up against the Trump administration. We also had another recent court win to protect grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park from being hunted.
The results in these two cases, as in many of our cases, hinged on years of painstaking work by independent scientists. These wins prove facts still matter in court. They also underscore how much we depend on sound science to protect our health and environment.
The Trump administration and its allies are acutely aware of science’s role in pushing for effective government regulation — which is why they’ve instituted a sneak attack on science. Their effort to disregard or disqualify any scientific finding that threatens corporate bottom lines has been glaringly apparent in the chlorpyrifos fight as the EPA continues to drag its feet. More sweepingly, last year former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt kicked independent scientists off key advisory boards, and acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has initiated new actions to exclude consideration of sound science altogether.
The administration’s other anti-science attacks include suppressing a report on formaldehyde’s health effects and halting a study on coal’s health risks. Recently, the president ignored findings by the world’s top climate experts, who warned we have less than 20 years to prevent a climate catastrophe. He also denied his own administration’s most recent climate assessment, which details debilitating consequences to our planet and ourselves unless we dramatically cut carbon pollution.
Just as fossil fuel interests have attacked good science to delay climate action, the chemical industry is trying to undermine and eliminate science that keeps us safe. Good science is the foundation on which our legal work stands, as well as the underpinning of our strongest environmental laws. We are taking every opportunity to defend the role of science in the courts. And, in the new Congress, we will be pressing for robust investigations of this administration’s unfounded attacks.