D.C. Appeals Court Vacates EPA Approval of Aldicarb for Florida Citrus Plants

In an Order filed on Monday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s registration of aldicarb, a pesticide, for use on certain citrus plants within Florida, rejecting the EPA’s request for the court to remand the registration to it while allowing the pesticide to still be used. 

“Farmworkers can breathe a bit easier knowing that they will not be exposed to this very toxic and dangerous pesticide, that can also be harmful to their families from residues that remain on clothes, hair, shoes, the body and that can come into families’ homes.  While we applaud heartily the court’s decision on aldicarb, we must be mindful of the fact that farmworkers continue to be exposed to other pesticides and they will not be safe until we have a much safer agricultural system,” Jeannie Economos with the Farmworker Association of Florida told Law Street. 

This ruling was in favor of the plaintiffs, Farmworker Association of Florida, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Environmental Working Group. The order granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary vacatur and motion for remand without vacatur, noting that the EPA acknowledged that it had not made the required Endangered Species Act determination prior to the registration. 

The order said the “EPA has been explicit that it will not provide any reconsideration on remand before 2024 at the earliest – long after the registration at issue has expired. So EPA has admitted that it will not provide the timely reconsideration that is the central rationale for remand without vacatur.”

The court decided that the seriousness of the EPA’s error merits vacatur, and that vacatur would not disrupt farmers because they have not used aldicarb for almost 10 years and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services denied an application for a state registration, allegedly making the EPA approval moot. 

An EPA spokesperson told Law Street that the “EPA is reviewing the decision.” Previously, the EPA argued that because the registration granted to Aldicarb is conditional, it included limits that would add protection for the environment and farmworker health. 

Jeannie Economos with the Farmworker Association of Florida told Law Street Media that they consider this legislation “satisfactorily concluded,” and that if the EPA attempts to challenge the decision it will consider further action. “We will not accept anything other than non-use of aldicarb on crops in Florida,” Economos said. 

According to Economos, the EPA should research and promote alternatives which are not as harmful, citing that organic citrus farmers have not had similar pest problems despite not using chemicals like the rest of the industry. Economos claimed that chemical fertilizers reduce nutrients in the soil and produce weaker crops, as well as “poisoning our workers, our soils, our groundwater, our food, and the public.” 

Nathan Donley with the Center for Biological Diversity told Law Street that although some farmers in the citrus industry asked for aldicarb’s approval, it was contested within the industry. “Aldicarb gives the entire industry a bad name because being associated with one of the most dangerous pesticides ever used is bad for business and reflects poorly on the industry. There are plenty of alternatives and safer growing methods that can lessen disease burden on these trees. Aldicarb is banned in the largest citrus producing countries in the world, like China and Brazil. It is simply not needed.” 

Additionally, Donley said that this is only one of the hundreds of pesticides registered by the EPA without taking the appropriate steps under the Endangered Species Act, and that this ruling is a “sharp rebuke” for ignoring the law during the last 50 years. 

The order also granted a motion from the plaintiffs to file a surreply, declared that a motion to extend time is moot, and denied motions from third parties to participate as amicus curiae. The Center for Biological Diversity represents the Farmworker Association of Florida, Environmental Working Group, and itself.