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New York’s Cuomo to Ban Pesticide Chlorpyrifos, but Vetoes Bill

Dec. 10, 2019, 11:53 PM

New York will restrict the use of the toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos, but will rely on regulations rather than legislation to accomplish the goal.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) Dec. 10 vetoed a bill (A.2477/S.5343) from the state legislature that would have entirely phased out the chemical by the end of 2021. At the same time, he directed the state Department of Environmental Conservation to issue its own phased-in ban.

His actions will result in an immediate ban on aerial uses of chlorpyrifos, to be followed by regulations to ban the chemical in all uses, except spraying apple tree trunks, by December 2020. That exception would be lifted by July 2021, he said.

The governor’s action appears to adopt the legislation’s approach, but on a faster timeline and with opportunity for public comment on the terms.

“Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide that has the potential to cause serious health problems in people who ingest it,” Cuomo said in a statement, adding that the ban is meant to “ensure New York families aren’t needlessly exposed to a dangerous chemical.”

But in his veto message, Cuomo said he rejected the bill because it “bypasses the rigorous process available to challenge an approved product” and substitutes “the legislature’s judgment for the expertise of chemists, health experts, and other subject matter experts in this field.”

Cuomo said he doesn’t agree with banning the pesticide “by legislative decree” but does agree that “New York must lead the way by taking action to assure that all regulatory options are taken to limit exposure to chlorpyrifos.”

The chemical has been linked to neurological damage in children and has been banned for home use nationally since 2001. It is one of the most common pesticides, and is used on a wide array of crops such as corn, apples, and almonds.

State law gives the Department of Environmental Conservation a broad range of regulatory powers, including the ability to restrict the use of a pesticide to certain crops, limit application to specific conditions, and revoke a product’s registration, Cuomo said.

Environmentalist, Farm Support

Environmental groups that had been urging Cuomo to sign the bill endorsed his regulatory action while crediting the Democratic legislative sponsors, Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D) and Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D), for their work on the ban.

The trade association for the state’s farms also welcomed the action, backing the DEC’s “established review process” over the legislature’s attempted “go-around.”

“Chlorpyrifos has been an effective and safe tool for farmers for decades, and while the eventual ban will pose challenges to food production, we will continue to work with DEC on its evaluation process and finding alternative products for farmers,” Steve Ammerman, a spokesman for the New York Farm Bureau, said in a statement.

The veto shows that Cuomo “understands that there are new threats from invasive species to agriculture production and a permanent legislative ban would have ruled out all future use should it be needed,” Ammerman said.

The state Senate and Assembly passed the chlorpyrifos bill in April as part of a larger environmental package. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has allowed continued use of the pesticide, but states including Hawaii and California have imposed restrictions.

“Today’s action by Governor Cuomo provides real leadership in the face of federal indifference,” Kate Kurera, deputy director of Environmental Advocates of New York, said in a statement. “Chlorpyrifos can harm our children and has no place in New York.”

Common Pesticide

Non-agricultural uses cited by the state include golf courses, greenhouses, and treatments of non-structural wood such as utility poles and fence posts.

Hawaii approved a chlorpyrifos ban in June 2018. Other states, including Connecticut, have proposed bans. California passed a suite of measures taking the pesticide off store shelves in 2015, and further restricting commercial use in May, prompting DowDupont Inc. and other chemical manufacturers to announce they would stop selling the pesticide in the state starting next year.

The European Union will also no longer permit sales of the insecticide starting in February.

The veto of the chlorpyrifos bill was part of Cuomo’s handling of hundreds of bills passed by the legislature in its spring session. The bills must be requested by the governor, and released to his office by the Legislature, which has until Dec. 31 to send them. Once delivered, Cuomo has a window for signing them that could extend into January.

To contact the reporters on this story: Keshia Clukey in Albany, N.Y. at kclukey@bloomberglaw.com; John Herzfeld in New York at jherzfeld@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Anna Yukhananov at ayukhananov@bloombergenvironment.com

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