The Attorneys General of New York, Maryland, and California have filed a lawsuit against the EPA over its decision to suspend critical safeguards for agricultural workers. The Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is a regulation first implemented by the EPA in 1992 to reduce the number of illnesses and injuries to agricultural workers nationwide from exposures to pesticides.
In 2015, after determining that many incidents of pesticide exposure might have been avoided if farm labor had better training, the EPA strengthened the WPS and required employers to provide agricultural workers and their families with new training. This new training resulted from more than 15 years of stakeholder meetings and the consideration of over 2,400 public comments. However, despite the availability of updated training materials, the Trump Administration’s EPA suspended the new training requirements without following the necessary public notice and comment procedures. The lawsuit being brought by the Attorneys General is based on the fact that the EPA’s suspension is arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is not above the law. He does not get to do away with protections simply because he does not like them.” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “It’s because of agricultural workers — many of whom are immigrants — that families across America can enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Agricultural workers deserve to know that we have their backs. We will continue to hold the EPA accountable. That’s why, with today’s lawsuit, my Office has sued EPA Administrator Pruitt a total of 11 times.”
Among other things, the training requirements that Administrator Pruitt wants to discard would allow agricultural workers to:
- Learn how to minimize family member exposure to pesticides from contaminated clothing or footwear
- Access information about the hazards posed by particular pesticides
- Ensure they are aware of guidelines for emergency medical care.
Though California has its own strict agricultural worker safety training requirements, many of California’s agricultural workers cross state lines for seasonal agricultural work. Without the federal safeguards at issue, the Attorneys General say the workers will not receive the information necessary to better protect themselves and their families from pesticide exposure.