Federal court denies EPA approval of controversial pesticide for Florida's citrus industry
A federal court on Monday rejected the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval to use a pesticide on Florida’s citrus groves citing the agency’s failure to comply with the Endangered Species Act.
The pesticide, known as aldicarb, was previously discontinued in the U.S. after the EPA found it poses “unacceptable dietary risks, especially to infants and young children.”
The Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Working Group and Farmworker Association of Florida filed the lawsuit in early April to stop the pesticide from being used on citrus groves in the state.
“We needed the court to step in and say, ‘This was done faultily,’ and deny registration and that’s just what the court did,” Nathan Donley, with the Center for Biological Biodiversity said. “The (EPA) did not comply with the Endangered Species Act and admitted as much.”
The EPA can request a rehearing, but pending an appeal, aldicarb approval is dead in the water, he said.
AgLogic Chemical, based in North Carolina, submitted the pesticide application to the EPA in an effort to combat citrus greening, which has devastated the industry.
“We are extremely disappointed by today’s ruling which vacated EPA’s recent registration of aldicarb, a product that had for years, safely provided critical pest control to Florida’s citrus industry,” Ag Logic spokeswoman Alia Faraj wrote in an email. “The Court’s decision centered on procedural Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance issues and did not disagree with EPA’s registration decision on any other grounds. Virtually all pesticides in Florida have the same ESA issue, yet our product was singled out.”
Earlier this year, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried blocked the use of aldicarb on Florida’s citrus saying in a news release, "aldicarb poses an unacceptable risk to human, animal, and environmental health in Florida."
Following the court’s decision, Fried said she remains committed to working with Florida citrus growers to support solutions “without risking human, animal and environmental health.”
“This ruling acknowledges that the Trump Administration’s registration of aldicarb violated federal law, and that the pesticide’s environmental effects would remain unconsidered for years to come,” Fried said in an emailed statement.
Donley said the EPA could have a month and a half to file an appeal but said this is a resounding win for the environment and the rule of law.
“The courts are just holding the EPA accountable for not following the law and that’s really important,” he said.
AgLogic’s registration to use aldicarb in Florida included a comprehensive stewardship program to “train and educate users, applicators and farmworkers to safely use the product and protect the environment,” Faraj wrote.
“While we consider next steps, we are committed to working proactively with EPA, (the Florida Department of Agriculture) and the iconic citrus industry on a resolution that will bring relief to Florida citrus producers, while protecting users and the environment,” Faraj wrote.
Jeannie Economos, with the Farmworker Association of Florida, said in a news release that there is no place for aldicarb on Florida’s crops.
“Farmworkers can breathe a bit easier knowing that this neurotoxin will not be used on the citrus crops they harvest,” she said. “We are grateful to Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried for refusing to allow this toxin to poison our communities, our food and our environment. This decision sends a message to EPA — protecting people and the environment must be their top priority.”
Karl Schneider is an environment reporter. Send tips and comments to email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @karlstartswithk