EPA Calls Out New York Times for Fake News on Pesticide Decision

Farm Workers Damian Dovarganes AP
Damian Dovarganes/AP

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is calling out the New York Times for “peddling false information” about the agency’s ruling to not ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos by cherry-picking the “facts” about the EPA’s decision.

The Times reported on Friday that documents it obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) showed “the E.P.A.’s new staff, appointed by President Trump, pushed the agency’s career staff to draft a ruling that would deny the decade-old petition by environmentalists to ban the pesticide, chlorpyrifos.”

The Times accuses the EPA of political colluding with the White House and the Department of Agriculture — and the agriculture and pesticide industries — ahead of its decision to rule against banning the pesticide and even sought the opinion of an environmental activist to bolster their theory.

“What is clear from these documents is that Administrator [Scott] Pruitt’s abrupt action to vacate the ban on chlorpyrifos was an ideological — not a health-based decision,” said Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group.

“In fact, the Pruitt E.P.A. has shown time and time again that it seems to only be willing to act quickly when it comes to dismantling health-protective rules like the proposed ban on chlorpyrifos at the behest of industry,” Benesh said.

But the EPA press office said in a press release it issued on the matter that the facts about the ruling were misconstrued by the Times.

“Last night, the New York Times’ Eric Lipton and Roni Rabin reported on false facts about the EPA’s decision not to ban the pesticide Chlorpyrifos and the decision to continue the review regarding the pesticide.”

“Specifically speaking, they left out that the EPA’s decision was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.”

“They also took the drastic decision of omitting words from the EPA’s one-sentence statement in response to their story that reminded Americans that the USDA had scientific concerns about banning this pesticide.”

“Additionally, three days before President Trump’s inauguration, the Obama Administration’s USDA strongly opposed banning this pesticide.”

The official statement from EPA:

“Taking emails out of context doesn’t change the fact that we continue to examine the science surrounding chlorpyifos, while taking into account USDA’s scientific concerns with methodology used by the previous administration.” – EPA spokesman, Amy Graham

The Times reporting on the statement:

Amy Graham, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, said the denial of the petition to ban chlorpyrifos was justified. “Taking emails out of context doesn’t change the fact that we continue to examine the science surrounding chlorpyrifos,” she said in a written statement. She added that the agency was examining “scientific concerns with the methodology used by the previous administration.”

So while The Times mocked the EPA for its relationship with the USDA, Pruitt is, in fact, keeping the promises he made during his Senate confirmation hearings to help the American agricultural community.

“‘This is a welcome decision grounded in evidence and science,’ said Sheryl Kunickis, director of the Office of Pest Management Policy at USDA, in an interview with Food Safety News in March.

‘It means that this important pest management tool will remain available to growers, helping to ensure an abundant and affordable food supply for this nation and the world,” Kunickis said. “This frees American farmers from significant trade disruptions that could have been caused by an unnecessary, unilateral revocation of chlorpyrifos tolerances in the United States.

“It is also great news for consumers, who will continue to have access to a full range of both domestic and imported fruits and vegetables,” Kunickis said.

The Daily Caller reported that The Times did not back down after the revelations from the EPA.

“We stand by our story, the facts of which the E.P.A. has not disputed,” a spokeswoman told The Daily Caller News Foundation.


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