EPA has agreed to a court settlement with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that spells out how the agency must review the impact of crop pesticides on children''s health.
The agreement came after EPA attorneys reviewed a consent decree that was negotiated with NRDC in the final days of the Clinton Administration.
After EPA''s counsel advised EPA Administrator Christie Whitman that the agency had limited flexibility to change or withdraw from the consent decree, Whitman outlined steps in a directive to the pesticide program to make its regulatory process more participatory and transparent.
"The changes we negotiated in the settlement agreement will guarantee new opportunities for public participation and additional external review of critical pesticide decisions," said Whitman.
EPA''s review of pesticides used by farmers and consumers for everything from cornfields to cockroaches has provoked a series of battles since Congress passed a 1996 law requiring the evaluations.
Farm and chemical groups contend that the agency''s review threatens to eliminate some of the nation''s most popular and cheap insect killers.
NRDC and other advocacy groups sued EPA after the agency missed deadlines set by Congress to review nearly 10,000 pesticides and set safety tolerances for them.
In the final days of the Clinton Administration, the lawsuit was settled which promised to have EPA set tolerances for a dozen chemicals seen as especially risky to children.
The settlement requires the agency to set a timetable to evaluate 11 of the most hazardous pesticides, to find ways to protect farmworkers from three dangerous pesticides, and to launch a program to test the effects of pesticide on the human endocrine system.
Whitman said she negotiated some changes to the settlement, which would allow more "public participation" in the agency''s pesticide review.
"We have set specific milestones for the review of certain pesticides, and EPA will meet deadlines required by the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) to reassess existing pesticides using current health and safety standards," said Whitman.
Under the FQPA, EPA is required to reassess 66 percent of existing tolerances by Aug. 3, 2002 to ensure they meet today''s health and safety standards.
EPA said it is on schedule to meet this deadline.
by Virginia Sutcliffe