Group Wants EPA To Stand Firm on Pesticides

Environmental activists are challenging the Bush Administration to\r\nkeep pesticide curbs reached during the Clinton-run EPA.

Environmental activists have challenged the Bush Administration to keep pesticide curbs reached during the Clinton-run EPA, saying the decision on whether to support a pending legal settlement marked a first test for new EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) said Whitman was facing intense industry lobbying to back out of a settlement agreement reached by her predecessor Carol Browner.

The deal requires EPA to review specific pesticides that may be hazardous to infants and children.

"Christine Todd Whitman has a chance to show her true environmental colors as EPA administrator," said Gregory Wetstone, NRDC''s program director. "Will she side with America''s infants and children, or knuckle under to pesticide industry pressure and kill these needed safeguards?"

Whitman will have to make a decision, either to uphold the agreement or repudiate it by March 2, said NRDC, a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists.

The lawsuit behind the settlement arrangement was brought by NRDC, the United Farm Workers, the Breast Cancer Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibility and other organizations.

The suit challenged EPA''s failure to review the safety of a range of pesticides used on foods, in homes and in schools.

It sought to force EPA to honor its obligations under the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act and a related 1988 pesticide law.

EPA and the groups announced the settlement on Jan. 19, just days before Bush became president.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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