ALBANY — Amid a lack of federal action, Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed the Department of Environmental Conservation to immediately ban aerial applications of chlorpyrifos, and eventually institute a complete ban of the pesticide.
“Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide that has the potential to cause serious health problems in people who ingest it,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I am directing the state department of environmental conservation to ban the use of this toxic substance to help ensure New York families aren’t needlessly exposed to a dangerous chemical.”
Multiple studies have unanimously shown that chlorpyrifos — widely used for apple and Christmas trees, as well as some green vegetables — has negative effects on brain development, particularly for young children and babies in the womb.
Under Cuomo’s orders, the DEC will immediately ban the use of aerial spray to apply chlorpyrifos, which is believed to be the most dangerous because the chemical can drift to nearby homes, schools and workplaces.
By December 2020, the DEC will ban the pesticide for all uses aside from spraying apple tree trunks, and by July 2021, chlorpyrifos will be completely banned for all uses.
“Certainly, I think it’s a concern when you ban a pesticide, you have to support farmers to be able to make the transition to using safer methods of pest reduction,” said Kate Kurera with Environmental Advocates of new York. “But there’s a lot of organic farming in the state, where farmers are able to farm without this pesticide.”
In 2017, the Obama administration proposed a rule to federally ban all uses of the pesticide. However, the Trump administration quickly reversed it, leaving states to take action on the issue.
Attorney General Letitia James filed a brief against the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency last week, as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the administration in August from nine attorneys general, arguing the agency is violating federal law by continuing to allow the use of chlorpyrifos.
“The Trump Administration continues to ignore science, law, and common sense by allowing chlorpyrifos to contaminate our food at unsafe levels,” James said in a statement. “To protect the health and safety of New Yorkers, I am urging the court to force the Trump EPA to do its job and ban this hazardous pesticide from our food.”
This past legislative session, the state legislature. passed a bill that would institute a complete ban on the use of chlorpyrifos, however Cuomo ultimately vetoed it. In his veto explanation, Cuomo wrote there is a rigorous process to challenge products that the bill would be bypassing, and that the bill would “substitute the legislature’s judgment for the expertise of chemists, health experts and other subject matter experts in this field.”
In short, Cuomo felt that a regulatory, rather than legislative, process would be more appropriate to ban the pesticide.
“A bill being signed would’ve given us exact surety of the ban,” Kurera said. “But we’re quite happy with (Cuomo’s direction), we’re viewing it as a very positive step.”
Massarah Mikati covers the New York State Legislature and immigration for Johnson Newspaper Corp. Email her at email@example.com, or find her on Twitter @massarahmikati.