Lawsuits Mount Against Trump Administration

Last Friday the state of California (along with 22 other states and the District of Columbia) filed a lawsuit against the Trump Administration for its attempt to revoke the state’s waiver to set more stringent car emissions standards than that of the federal government (an authority granted to the state through the Clean Air Act of 1970). Now, as WTOP reported, yesterday a group of concerned beekeepers also filed a suit against the EPA over its July decision to expand the use of sulfoxaflor, an insecticide that’s known to harm bees and other pollinators.

CNN reported that, “The Pollinator Stewardship Council, the American Beekeeper Federation and beekeeper Jeff Anderson, who are represented by Earthjustice, have asked the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to review the EPA’s decision earlier this summer to rollback several restrictions around the pesticide sulfoxaflor, which were put in place under the Obama administration over concerns it might be contributing to plummeting bee populations.”

The Background: The Fence Post reported in July that sulfoxaflor is used to target pests such as sugarcane aphids and tarnished plant bugs, also known as lygus. When the EPA’s decision was announced in July, Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, explained to the press that EPA had first approved the use of sulfoxaflor in 2013, but that in 2016, following a 2015 decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vacating the registration of sulfoxaflor citing inadequate data on the effects on bees, EPA reevaluated the data and approved registrations that did not include crops that attract bees.

Is Sulfoxaflor Safe? Sierra Magazine noted that sulfoxaflor was initially developed by Dow Chemical in 2010 and was marketed as a safer alternative to neonicotinoids, a widely used class of pesticide. Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), an environmental legal advocacy group, maintain that the insecticide is not safe for pollinators facing environmental stresses. Additionally, a paper published in Nature in 2018 found that bee colonies exposed to sulfoxaflor experienced significant difficulty reproducing and had fewer than half the number of offspring as unexposed colonies.

Why This Matters: The Center for Biological Diversity explained and that the EPA is routinely misusing the ‘emergency’ process to get sulfoxaflor approved (as it did in its July decision) because it’s too toxic to make it through normal pesticide reviews. And in the case of California, the Trump Administration is treading on thin legal ice by revoking California’s Clean Air Act Waiver. California has been granted 100 waivers since 1970. Many view Trump’s moves as erratic and a way to “stick it” to constituencies that did not vote for him. Whether that’s the case or not, the health of Americans and the vitality of our food supply (that requires pollinators) will be put in jeopardy with these power plays by the Trump EPA and Department of Transportation. 

Go Deeper: Read this interview with former Obama EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy where she discusses youth climate protests and her response to Trump environmental regulatory rollbacks.

Go Even Deeper: At a campaign stop yesterday, Mayor Pete Buttigieg had a honeybee land on his tie. He took off his tie and had the lost bee taken outside to pollinate Iowa.

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