Lawsuit Filed Against EPA Over Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS)

On May 30, 2018, the Attorneys General from the states of California, Maryland and New York filed a lawsuit against EPA over the Agency’s delay in publishing a notice of availability of revised training materials that focus on the expanded pesticide safety and application requirements under the Agency’s changes to its 2015 Worker Protection Standard (WPS).  The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, asserts that EPA’s delay in the publication of a notice of availability of these materials effectively denies farmworkers and pesticide handlers training that can enhance health and safety protections in the application of pesticides.

In November 2015, EPA promulgated a final rule making changes to the WPS among which was a requirement that employers provide training to farmworkers and pesticide handlers covering a list of health and safety topics that were expanded under the revised regulation.  The 2015 rule required employers to comply with the new pesticide safety training provisions within 180 days after EPA published in the Federal Register a notice of availability of the updated training materials.

Subsequently, on December 21, 2017, EPA published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that it was initiating a proposed rulemaking to revise certain provisions of the 2015 rule pertaining to minimum age for pesticide handlers, the requirement that employers provide pesticide safety and application information to designated farmworker representatives, and application exclusion zone restrictions.  EPA stated that the compliance dates set forth in the 2015 regulation would remain in effect except for the requirement that training of farmworkers and pesticide handlers include the expanded content mandated under the rule.  EPA acknowledged that while training materials pursuant to the requirements of the 2015 rule had been developed and were readily available, the Agency stated it would not publish a notice of their availability until it had completed its proposed rulemaking on the WPS focusing on the minimum age, designated representative, and application exclusion zone requirements.  The Agency explained the delay was necessary “to prevent extra work and costs to developers of the training materials and EPA reviewers.”

In their lawsuit, the Attorneys General maintain that by not committing to a deadline for completing the rulemaking process, the Agency has essentially delayed indefinitely the compliance dates of the enhanced pesticide training requirements promulgated in 2015.  They called the delay “arbitrary and capricious” and argued that it denied farmworkers and pesticide handlers the improved training that would protect their health and safety.  The Attorneys General requested that EPA immediately be made to publish a Federal Register notice announcing the availability of the training materials already developed.  A copy of the complaint filed by the Attorneys General may be accessed by clicking here.

AUTHOR

Diane Schute

All stories by: Diane Schute