Federal court urged to hold 'rogue' Trump EPA head in contempt for blatant defiance of ban on toxic weed killer

Federal court urged to hold 'rogue' Trump EPA head in contempt for blatant defiance of ban on toxic weed killer
Royalty-free stock photo ID: 1417570841 Washington, DC/USA - June 3, 2019: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler speaks at the National Press Club.

A coalition of farming and conservation groups is calling on a federal appeals court to hold EPA chief Andrew Wheeler in contempt for defying an order to immediately suspend use of dicamba, a poisonous weed-killer that is notorious for its tendency to drift and destroy nearby crops.

"Trump's EPA is so rogue it thinks it can blow off a federal court ruling that stops the damaging dicamba spraying in an administrative order," George Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, lead counsel in the case, said in a statement late Thursday night. "EPA needs a lesson in separation of powers and we're asking the court to give it to them."

On Monday, the EPA issued guidance greenlighting the use of dicamba through July 31 despite a June 3 Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that overturned the agency's approval of XtendiMax, Engenia, and FeXapan—dicamba-based herbicides sold by chemical giants Bayer (formerly Monsanto), BASF, and Corteva, respectively.

In its 56-page ruling (pdf), the Ninth Circuit said the EPA "entirely failed to recognize the enormous social cost to farming communities where use of dicamba herbicides had turned farmer against farmer, and neighbor against neighbor."

"The EPA and Monsanto urge us, if we conclude that substantial evidence does not support the 2018 conditional registrations, to remand without vacatur, leaving the conditional registrations in effect," the court said. "We decline to do so."

Green groups celebrated the ruling as a victory for both farmer safety and the environment. On Thursday, the Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed an emergency motion (pdf) urging the Ninth Circuit to enforce its June 3 order and hold the EPA and Wheeler in contempt for refusing to abide by it.

According to the two groups, last week's court ruling to ban the continued use of dicamba "could not have been any clearer" and argued the EPA must be held to account for disobeying the order.

"It's mind-boggling to see the EPA blatantly ignore a court ruling, especially one that provides such important protections for farmers and the environment," Stephanie Parent, a senior attorney with CBD, said in a statement. "We're asking this court to restore the rule of law at the Trump EPA."

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