EPA Sued Over Atrazine

Environmental Groups Allege EPA Violated Law in Approving Atrazine Registration

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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A number of environmental groups have filed a lawsuit challenging EPA's approval of atrazine and two other herbicides. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo by Pam Smith)

OMAHA (DTN) -- Environmental groups are challenging the Trump administration's approval of atrazine and two related herbicides, propazine and simazine, asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco to set aside the registrations from the EPA's September 2020 decision.

The petition, filed by the Rural Coalition, Pesticide Action Network North America, Beyond Pesticides, Center for Biological Diversity and the Center for Food Safety, alleges EPA violated its duties in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, in approving the interim registrations.

Atrazine is a herbicide widely used in agriculture across a range of crops, primarily corn but also sugarcane and sorghum, as well as a smaller amount of use in landscape care. The herbicide is under re-registration review by EPA, and in September, the agency released an interim registration decision approving its continued use.

Environmental groups have lobbied for atrazine to be banned entirely, based on concerns about human health risks and environmental problems, particularly concerning water quality.

"Rather than doing its job of protecting human health and the environment, EPA heeded to political expediency and rushed to reapprove this toxic pesticide," Sylvia Wu, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety, said in a news statement. Wu represents the petitioners in the lawsuit.

"We are in court to make sure EPA answers for its blatant disregard of the lives of our nation's farmworkers and their children."

In September, the agency announced a number of new requirements in its interim registration for atrazine.

The agency now requires a reduction of the maximum application rate for atrazine and simazine when used on residential turf in order to protect children who crawl or play on treated grass.

EPA added a requirement for irrigation immediately after simazine application to residential turf and required additional personal protective equipment for workers who apply atrazine and simazine.

The agency is finalizing label requirements for all three triazines to include mandatory spray drift control measures, to minimize pesticide drift into non-target areas including bodies of water, as well as updating label directions to slow weed resistance to atrazine.

New label language will prohibit spraying during a temperature inversion, set a 15-mph wind speed restriction for aerial and ground applications, as well as add specific boom and nozzle requirements.

The EPA also proposed ending one of two ongoing atrazine water-monitoring programs started in 2004.

As part of its routine re-registration review of atrazine, EPA has been releasing draft ecological and human health risk assessments for public comment.

EPA will next complete draft biological evaluations for atrazine. The evaluations are expected to be available for public comment this fall.

Those evaluations are the first step in the interagency consultation process to protect listed species and their habitats in the Endangered Species Act. Final endangered species determinations are expected to be completed in 2021.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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Todd Neeley