February 21, 2018

Udall, Booker, Harris, Blumenthal Offer Compromise to Pesticide Registration Reauthorization Stalemate

Propose 5-year reauthorization as long as the EPA halts plans to roll back protections for children and farmworkers who handle dangerous pesticides

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced that they are offering a compromise amendment that would allow an extension of the nation's pesticide registration program with updates sought by industry while also maintaining administrative rules that protect agricultural workers and children.

The senators have had a "hold" on H.R.1029, the Pesticide Registration Enhancement Act of 2017 (PRIA) in an effort to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from moving forward with its plan to roll back two Obama-era rules. The rules prevent children younger than 18 working in agriculture from handling highly dangerous pesticides like chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to brain damage in children, and help farmworkers get critical health and safety information about the pesticides they come into contact with. The senators also want the EPA to follow the law and respond to objections filed by worker and environmental advocates opposed to the agency's 2017 decision to overturn its own 2016 recommendation to ban chlorpyrifos.

Udall, Booker, Harris and Blumenthal have circulated a draft amendment aimed at moving PRIA forward while preserving the worker protection rules. If the amendment is included in a manager's amendment, it would garner their support for swift passage of the PRIA reauthorization bill.

"I have been in talks with the EPA over the last several months, and there is simply no good reason that the EPA is spending precious dollars to weaken protections for children and workers, while cutting the EPA's overall budget by almost 25 percent. Our requests are simple – we want to prevent the EPA from rolling back rules that protect almost half a million young kids working on farms across the country from handling a pesticide that the EPA's own scientists have linked to brain damage in children. We want to protect a rule that allows farmworkers to have access to safety information about the pesticides they are exposed to on the job. And we want the EPA to comply with the law with respect to its dangerous decision not to go through with a ban of chlorpyrifos," Udall said. "I’m not going to stop fighting to protect children and workers. The EPA has been unreasonable, so we are offering this amendment in hopes of finding a way forward that protects these common-sense and highly popular protections for kids and farmworkers and reauthorizes PRIA. The responsible members of the regulated industry want to see PRIA reauthorized, and they aren't clamoring for weaker protections for children and workers."

"We know that certain pesticides can increase the risk of cancer and can negatively impact brain development in children," Booker said. "Farmworkers and others who handle or come into close contact with such dangerous pesticides should at the very least have a basic level of protection, such as a right to safety information about the chemicals they're exposed to and an agreed-upon minimum age for handling dangerous pesticides. Unfortunately, this Administration is now proposing to weaken these common-sense protections – safeguards that have been 10 years in the making. This proposed compromise will allow a full reauthorization of PRIA while preserving these critical protections."

"Farmworkers have a right to a clean and healthy workplace and our children should not be exposed to dangerous pesticides," Harris said. "The EPA has a responsibility to protect our environment to ensure public safety, public health. We cannot allow them to abdicate that responsibility."

"EPA's planned rollback of rules protecting children and farmworkers from poisonous pesticides is dangerous to the extreme," Blumenthal said. "We are offering EPA a commonsense compromise that will protect kids from exposure to chemicals like chlorpyrifos and ensure that adult agricultural workers have full access to information about toxic pesticides. In the absence of EPA leadership, Congress has an obligation to do better than allow toxic chemicals to continue poisoning children and workers."

Current PRIA expired in September 2017, but it has been included in short-term reauthorizations on each subsequent continuing resolution. In March, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation reauthorizing the program until 2023. The Senate Committee on Agriculture reduced the reauthorization to 2020 after the EPA announced it would not implement the rules protecting children and farmworkers. Udall, Booker, Harris, and Blumenthal have objected to moving H.R.1029 on the Senate hotline without the full opportunity to offer amendments and debate.


The amendment extends PRIA reauthorization to 2023, as originally passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The amendment ensures protection of children, workers, and communities most vulnerable and exposed to pesticides for the duration of the PRIA reauthorization by maintaining the Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) published in the federal register on Nov. 2, 2015, and the Certification of Pesticide Applicators (CPA) rule published in the federal register on Jan. 4, 2017. The EPA has noticed that it will undertake a rulemaking process on important aspects of this rule that are unnecessary and would lead to more exposure to pesticides by children and restrict the rights of workers to obtain basic safety information on pesticides they have been exposed to. More information below.

Additionally, the amendment requires that the administrator issue a final decision on objections filed by NGOs and several attorneys general to his March 29, 2017, Order Denying the PAN/NRDC Petition to Revoke All Tolerances and Cancel All Registrations for the Pesticide Chlorpyrifos within 50 days of passage of the act and any additional actions on chlorpyrifos within 90 days. If the administrator fails to do so, the objections will be considered denied.

Under the U.S. Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, parties can appeal the denial of a petition to the EPA administrator through a process called objections [21 USC 346a (g)(2)] and the Administrator must respond "as soon as practicable." On June 5, 2017, parties, including seven states (New York, Washington, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, and Vermont) filed objections to the March 29, 2017, Order Denying PAN/NRDC Petition to Revoke All Tolerances and Cancel All Registrations for the Pesticide Chlorpyrifos. As of Feb. 1, 241 days have gone by since objections were filed. The EPA has told congressional staff that it would need six to eight weeks of dedicated staff time to respond to the objections, but has not prioritized these actions.

Worker Protection Standard (WPS)

In November 2015, after more than a decade of stakeholder meetings, study and consideration, the EPA finalized revisions to the WPS that provide critical improvements designed to reduce the risk of illness or injury resulting from farmworkers' occupational exposures to pesticides. The WPS calls for basic preventive measures that include: direct and timely access to pesticide application information (the use, location, and hazards of specific pesticides); the basic right to a designated representative who can access pesticide application information on a worker's behalf; a minimum age of 18 to prohibit children from applying pesticides (there are exemptions for family-owned farms and their immediate family members); protection from drifting pesticides; anti-retaliation protections; and emergency assistance.

Certification of Pesticide Applicators (CPA)

In January 2017, after more than 40 years, the EPA updated its regulations concerning the certification of, and training requirements for, individuals who apply restricted use pesticides (RUPs), which are some of the most dangerous pesticides available on the market and are applied in agricultural, commercial and residential settings. Misuse of RUPs has resulted in injury, illness and death and highlights the importance of adequate training and proper handling of RUPs in order to protect our families from a preventable tragedy. The CPA rule enhances applicator competency standards, establishes a minimum age of 18 for pesticide applicators of RUPs, requires adequate training and supervision of noncertified pesticide applicators, and improves the quality of information that workers receive about the pesticides that they apply.