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Leaked Letters Show Dow Chemical Wants Pesticide Study Dropped

A four-year study now under way sets limits on where pesticides can be sprayed. (md.gov)
A four-year study now under way sets limits on where pesticides can be sprayed. (md.gov)
April 26, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - A conservation group is raising questions about Dow Chemical's attempts to convince the Trump administration to drop studies that show its pesticides could harm endangered species.

In a series of leaked letters, Dow executives asked Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt to withdraw recently released "biological evaluations" that show three insecticides - including Dow's chlorpyrifos - are likely to harm 97 percent of threatened or endangered species.

Brett Hartl, government-affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said killing those studies would scuttle a four-year process undertaken to calculate risks and set limits on where the pesticide can be sprayed.

"Dow is now saying, 'Oh, the science is flawed. We need to start completely over' - which is an absurd delaying tactic," Hartl said, "because they don't like the result."

Dow also reportedly has asked the secretaries of Commerce and the Interior to go back to court to challenge a 2014 settlement that requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to release their own draft biological opinions by May. Opponents of reducing the number of pesticides available for use say it is making it increasingly difficult for the industry to produce large-scale crops with fewer tools.

Hartl noted that Dow contributed $1 million to President Trump's inauguration, and that Trump named Dow CEO Andrew Liveris to lead the American Manufacturing Council.

"Given Dow's very close relationship with Trump," Hartl said, "it's not surprising that this is happening, but obviously very frustrating and very alarming."

Pruitt hasn't publicly responded to the release of the letters. However, he rejected the recent findings of his agency's staff scientists, who suggested that the government revise the acceptable level of chlorpyrifos residue on food down to zero.

The letters are online at biologicaldiversity.org.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD