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E&C Dems Urge Walden to Investigate EPA’s Permitting of Toxic Chemicals

Apr 3, 2017
Press Release
EPA Administrator Pruitt denied a petition to permanently ban chlorpyrifos, which is known to cause neurodevelopmental harm in infants and children

Four Energy and Commerce Committee democratic leaders sent a letter to Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) today urging Committee Republicans to work with Democrats to carry out oversight and investigate the Trump Administration’s decision to allow the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos despite overwhelming scientific evidence that this chemical causes serious neurodevelopmental harm in infants and children.  The letter was signed by Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY).

Last week, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt denied a petition to permanently ban chlorpyrifos nationwide.  Pruitt made this decision in spite of his own agency’s scientific assessment that chlorpyrifos is present in our food and drinking water at unsafe levels in violation of public safety standards and that exposure to the chemical by infants and children can cause delayed mental development, attention problems, autism spectrum disorders, and intelligence decrements.

“This decision increases our concern that the Trump Administration is failing to properly implement the Food Quality Protection Act,” Committee Democrats wrote to Chairman Walden.  “This important public health statute falls squarely within this Committee’s jurisdiction.  The Committee bears a responsibility to investigate, and we ask that you join us in requesting documents from the Administration, and hold hearings on this important public health issue.”

The letter also raises concerns that the chlorpyrifos decision may be part of an emerging pattern at EPA under the Trump Administration.  Recently, EPA expanded the use of the pesticide glyphosate despite scientific evidence of risk, and may do so again in the near future.  Glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup weed killer, is the most widely used agricultural pesticide and a probable human carcinogen.  Court documents recently unsealed in a lawsuit over glyphosate show that Monsanto and CropLife America had a large, and potentially inappropriate, role in the registration process for that pesticide.  Committee Democrats are concerned that similar documents may exist with respect to chlorpyrifos.

In light of these decisions by the Trump Administration, the Democratic Committee leaders asked Chairman Walden to join them in an investigation and to hold public hearings on several questions including:

  • Did actions by CropLife America violate EPA policies or regulations?  Did CropLife America or Dow AgroSciences raise similar concerns or request changes to the Science Advisory Panel for chlorpyrifos?
  • Documents reveal that Monsanto employees may have ghostwritten scientific papers on glyphosate, including papers published in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, which has an editorial board populated by industry scientists, lawyers and consultants with clear financial ties to the chemical industry.  Has EPA relied on those studies in its evaluation of glyphosate?  Did EPA rely on studies from that journal in its decision to deny the petition to ban chlorpyrifos?
  • In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed with recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that glyphosate monitoring should be done, but subsequently suspended its efforts to conduct that monitoring.  Documents suggest that this decision was made under pressure from an EPA employee working with Monsanto.  Did FDA and EPA violate agency policies and procedures in suspending that monitoring?
  • EPA’s March 30 decision on chlorpyrifos will allow continued use of this dangerous pesticide on golf courses.  Did trade associations representing the Trump Organization golf courses, or lobbyists who represent the Trump Organization, communicate with EPA, the White House, or the Trump transition team regarding the March 30 decision or chlorpyrifos in general?

Democrats requested a reply from Chairman Walden by April 14, 2017.

The text of the letter is enclosed below:

Dear Chairman Walden:

On March 30, the Trump Administration denied a petition to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos, going against overwhelming scientific evidence.  This decision increases our concern that the Trump Administration is failing to properly implement the Food Quality Protection Act, and this concern has only grown in recent months as we have monitored the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory process for another pesticide, glyphosate.  This important public health statute falls squarely within this Committee’s jurisdiction.  The Committee bears a responsibility to investigate, and we ask that you join us in requesting documents from the Administration, and hold hearings on this important public health issue.  

Chlorpyrifos is a dangerous pesticide that causes serious neurodevelopmental harm in infants and children, including delayed mental development, attention problems, autism spectrum disorders, and intelligence decrement.  EPA itself found these effects in a rigorous risk assessment vetted by the Science Advisory Panel.   EPA also found that chlorpyrifos is present in food and in our drinking water at unsafe levels, in blatant violation of our pesticide safety standards. 

Unfortunately, this action seems to be part of an emerging pattern.  EPA also recently expanded use of the pesticide glyphosate despite scientific evidence of risk.   Glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup weed killer, is the most widely used agricultural pesticide and a probable human carcinogen.   Court documents recently unsealed in a lawsuit over glyphosate show that Monsanto and CropLife America had a large, and potentially inappropriate, role in the registration process for that pesticide.  We suspect similar documents might exist with respect to chlorpyrifos.

In light of these very serious concerns, we ask that you join us in seeking those documents and holding hearings on the following specific questions:

1.         After convening the Science Advisory Panel for glyphosate, and under pressure from CropLife America, which represents the interests of Monsanto and other agribusinesses, EPA removed members of the panel who CropLife America expected would be critical of glyphosate’s safety, requiring a last minute postponement of the panel’s meeting.  Did this action violate EPA policies or regulations?  Did CropLife America or Dow AgroSciences raise similar concerns or request changes to the Science Advisory Panel for chlorpyrifos?

2.         During that postponement, EPA re-affirmed and expanded the registration of Enlist Duo, which contains glyphosate – without hearing from the advisory panel.  Was this action a violation of the Food Quality Protection Act because EPA did not have sufficient information to establish a reasonable certainty of no harm from glyphosate? 

3.         Documents reveal that Monsanto employees may have ghostwritten scientific papers on glyphosate, including papers published in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, which has an editorial board populated by industry scientists, lawyers and consultants with clear financial ties to the chemical industry.  Has EPA relied on those studies in its evaluation of glyphosate?  Did EPA rely on studies from that journal in its decision to deny the petition to ban chlorpyrifos?

4.         In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agreed with recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that glyphosate monitoring should be done, but subsequently suspended its efforts to conduct that monitoring.   Documents suggest that this an EPA employee working with Monsanto may have intervened to suppress efforts to study glyphosate within the Department of Health and Human Services.  Did FDA and EPA violate agency policies and procedures in suspending that monitoring?

5.         The Monsanto documents raise a particular concern about the actions of an EPA employee, who was also involved with registration activities for chlorpyrifos.  Did this employee act inappropriately in the registration process for glyphosate?  Further, did this employee coordinate inappropriately with Dow AgroSciences during the Agency’s consideration of chlorpyrifos?

6.         EPA’s March 30 decision on chlorpyrifos will allow continued use of this dangerous pesticide on golf courses.  Did trade associations representing the Trump Organization golf courses, or lobbyists who represent the Trump Organization, communicate with EPA, the White House, or the Trump transition team regarding the March 30 decision or chlorpyrifos in general?

We owe it to the American public to make sure that the Food Quality Protection Act is being implemented as required, and that the health of our children is prioritized over the profits of chemical companies.  We hope you will join us in investigating these issues, and kindly ask you to reply to this request no later than April 14, 2017.

Sincerely,

 

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