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Judge Grants TRO, Injunction Against EPA Pesticide Rule Change

A tractor fertilizing a field

Tracking shot. Drone point of view of a Tractor spraying on a cultivated field. Small Business.

Judge Lewis J. Liman with the Southern District of New York approved the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its administrator, Andrew Wheeler, based on allegations that a modified rule from the agency would increase farmworker’s risk of exposure to pesticides.  The order and injunction were scheduled to begin on Tuesday and remain for fourteen days until the effective date of the rule in question, January 12, 2021. 

The plaintiffs include nonprofit and membership organizations which represent farmworker communities. They claimed in a complaint filed earlier this month that the EPA’s Final Rule which was published about two months ago weakens safeguards protecting farmworkers from pesticides. They claimed these changes, like allowing farmworkers to be present while the pesticides are being applied and near pesticide application equipment, could negatively affect farmers and their health. A similar complaint was filed by New York, California, Illinois, Maryland, and Minnesota, the court announced its intention to consolidate the two cases. 

Liman said in the Order that after reading and due deliberation on the plaintiff’s Memorandum of Law as well as supporting declarations and letters from each party regarding the stay provision in the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), he determined that the plaintiffs had sufficiently demonstrated their likelihood of success and that they could recieve irreparable harm. 

In the opinion which accompanied the Order, Liman agreed with the plaintiff that the court is permitted to delay the effective date of a regulation before the date under the APA despite that the decision has an impact across the nation. The district court delayed the EPA’s proposal to roll back provisions protecting farm workers which began in 2015. 

A hearing on the stay and restraining order will be held on January 8, 2021 and the parties were asked to file any memoranda or supporting documents for the opposition or continuance of the order by the end of the workday on January 6. 

The defendants are represented by the Department of Justice. The farmworker organizations are represented by attorneys with Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice.

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