WASHINGTON, April 20, 2017 – Buoyed by the Trump administration’s recent decision to scrap a ban on the brain-damaging pesticide chlorpyrifos, Dow Chemical is now pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to abandon legally mandated efforts to protect endangered species from this dangerous pesticide, as well as two other highly toxic insecticides.
The new back-channel ploy to abandon a nearly four-year effort to protect endangered species from these pesticides is revealed in letters, obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity, in which Dow urges Trump administration regulators to jettison the process completely. Dow’s letters ask the Trump administration and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to withdraw “biological evaluations” that were finalized in January detailing how three highly toxic organophosphate insecticides — chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon — harm nearly all 1,800 threatened and endangered animals and plants.
“Our government’s own scientists have already documented the grave danger these chemicals pose to people and endangered species,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. “Unable to win on the facts, Dow is now adopting the same disgraceful tactics honed by the tobacco industry and the climate deniers to try to discredit science and scrap reasonable conservation measures that will protect our most endangered animals and plants.”
The Dow request comes after four agencies — the EPA, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture — have invested four years assessing the pesticides’ impacts on imperiled species. The agencies have repeatedly met with stakeholders including Dow and provided opportunity for public comment.
In January the EPA’s final biological evaluations, supported by more than 10,000 pages of scientific documentation, determined that chlorpyrifos and malathion are likely to harm 97 percent of endangered species nationwide, while diazinon was found to harm 79 percent of protected species.
The Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service were expected to release draft biological opinions — the second-to-last stage of the process — for public review and comment by the end of May. These assessments are required as part of a legal settlement from 2014 with the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation organizations.
“It’s abhorrent that Dow is pressuring the Trump EPA to ignore years of scientific research on pesticide dangers and willfully violate the Endangered Species Act,” said Hartl. “Dow’s message is clear: Corporate profits are more important than even the most common-sense measures to protect endangered animals and plants from harmful pesticides.”
Over the past six years, Dow has donated $11 million to congressional campaigns and political action committees, and spent an additional $75 million lobbying Congress. In January 2017 Dow was one of three companies that donated $1 million to the Trump inauguration. President Trump named Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris as the head of the American Manufacturing Council in his administration. Liveris praised Trump by stating that Trump is making the United States “not a red-tape country, but a red-carpet country for America’s businesses.” Trump, who referred to Liveris as “my friend Andrew” gave Liveris his pen after signing the executive order mandating that agencies create so-called “regulatory reform task forces.”
For decades the EPA refused to comply with its legal mandate to protect endangered species from the impacts of pesticides. But following a two-year review by the National Academy of Sciences, the federal government initiated a highly public and transparent process to analyze the impacts of the three insecticides. The EPA developed a stakeholder-engagement process that allowed in-depth involvement by the public and industry and provided opportunities for comment on the draft assessments. During this process, Dow provided extensive comments to the agencies, many of which were ultimately rejected by the federal government because they were simply incompatible with the legal requirements of the Endangered Species Act.
Around 5 million pounds of chlorpyrifos are used in the United States every year on crops like corn, peanuts, plums and wheat. A recent study at the University of California at Berkeley found that an alarming 87 percent of umbilical-cord blood samples tested had detectable levels of chlorpyrifos.
Around 1 million pounds of malathion are used each year. In addition to being neurotoxins, both malathion and diazinon are considered probable human carcinogens by the World Health Organization. Early childhood exposure to organophosphates has been linked to cognitive delay and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Organophosphates were used as nerve agents in chemical warfare and have been linked to Gulf War syndrome, which causes fatigue, headaches, skin problems and breathing disorders.