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Daily News Blog

08
Feb

Tell Agencies—New Executive Order Requires Bold Regulatory Action to Confront Environmental Crises

(Beyond Pesticides, February 8, 2021) Immediately following his inauguration, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) directing the heads of all executive departments and agencies to produce recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review, with a goal of promoting public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. This Executive Order, if effective, will  reverse the historical trend of status-quo regulatory reviews required by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that typically support vested economic interests of polluters (e.g., petroleum-based pesticide and fertilizer manufacturers). Instead, the President’s EO, Modernizing Regulatory Review, sets the stage for the adoption of agency policy across government to seriously and with urgency confront the climate crisis, biodiversity collapse, and disproportionate harm to people of color communities (environmental racism).

Key agencies that can have a systemic effect in meeting these existential challenges are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Interior (DOI), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Labor/Occupational Safety and Health Administration (DOL/OSHA). But the EO will remain words on a page unless we all across the country exercise our voice and advocate for the changes necessary to end our reliance on hazardous chemicals and immediately embrace the viability of nonpolluting alternatives, like organic agriculture and land management.  No one expects the polluting corporations to shrink in the face of a shift to a green economy—which makes our voice and oversight all that more important.

Tell the heads of EPA, DOI, USDA, and DOL/OSHA to review decisions allowing toxic chemical use based on available alternatives—technologies, practices, and products—that reduce or eliminate hazards.

Ever since the Reagan administration, regulatory review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the Office of Management and the Budget (OMB) has prevented agencies from promulgating new regulations based on new science and technologies that are more protective of health and the environment. OIRA acts as a gatekeeper to new regulations and has generally resisted changes to the status quo—even in regulations designed to adapt to new science and technology. An example of such regulations is the sunset process created in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), which was is designed to review synthetic materials allowed in organic production every five years and remove them if they no longer meet OFPA criteria.

There are many examples of such regulations, and OIRA no longer needs to explicitly deny changes in regulations because agencies restrict their own actions based on the fear of OIRA review. President Biden’s Executive Order offers an opportunity for OIRA/OMB and federal agencies to place new criteria on changes in regulations. Instead of protecting the status quo, the review should be based on the President’s priorities as stated in the Modernizing Regulatory Review EO.

To be meaningful, regulatory reviews, in accordance with the EO, must analyze existing regulatory decisions on registration, allowance, and/or use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in the context of available alternatives—technologies, practices and products—that reduce or eliminate hazards. We urge that all agencies immediately conduct an alternatives assessment that evaluates available organic practices in accordance with 7 CFR 205.600, the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances under the National Organic Program. This is especially important in the context of protecting health and the environment and ensuring racial equity in the application of regulations that currently allow for disproportionate and elevated risk for farmworkers and landscapers, as well as fenceline communities and people of color. These communities currently suffer disproportionate risk due to toxic chemical exposure, comorbidities, and elevated vulnerabilities to diseases and COVID-19 that are ignored under current regulatory reviews.

The tools are available now to end the use of toxic chemicals in current land management practices nationwide, including the management of agricultural land and landscapes, yet regulations allow disproportionate harm to black, brown, and indigenous people that is associated with a chain of poisoning and contamination from production to transportation, application, and disposal. The EO, if it is to be implemented in the spirit that is intended, requires that each agency conduct a full assessment of actions that it can take immediately to eliminate or reduce the current harms being inflicted that are unnecessary, given the availability of organic (as defined in federal law) alternatives.

Tell the heads of EPA, DOI, USDA, and DOL/OSHA to review decisions allowing toxic chemical use based on available alternatives—technologies, practices, and products—that reduce or eliminate hazards.

To the (new) heads of EPA, DOI, USDA, and DOL/OSHA:

Immediately following his inauguration, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) directing the heads of all executive departments and agencies to produce recommendations for improving and modernizing regulatory review, with a goal of promoting public health and safety, economic growth, social welfare, racial justice, environmental stewardship, human dignity, equity, and the interests of future generations. This Executive Order, Modernizing Regulatory Review, sets the stage for the adoption of agency policy to seriously and with urgency confront the climate crisis, biodiversity collapse, and disproportionate harm to people of color communities (environmental racism).

I ask your agency to conduct a review, in accordance with the Modernizing Regulatory Review EO, to analyze existing regulatory decisions on registration, allowance, and/or use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers in the context of available alternatives—technologies, practices and products— that reduce or eliminate hazards. I urge you to immediately conduct an alternatives assessment—associated with all your regulatory and administrative decisions— that evaluates available organic practices in accordance with 7 CFR 205.600, the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances under the National Organic Program. This is especially important in the context of protecting health and the environment and ensuring racial equity in the application of regulations that currently allow for disproportionate and elevated risk for farmworkers and landscapers, as well as fenceline and people of color communities. These communities currently suffer disproportionate risk due to toxic chemical exposure, comorbidities, and elevated vulnerabilities to diseases and COVID-19 that are ignored under your current regulatory reviews.

The tools are now available to end the use of toxic chemicals in current land management practices, including the management of agricultural land and landscapes, yet the regulations of your agency allow disproportionate harm to black, brown, and indigenous people that is associated with a chain of poisoning and contamination from production to transportation, application, and disposal. The EO, if it is to be implemented in the spirit that is intended, requires that your agency conduct a full assessment of actions that it can take immediately to eliminate or reduce the current harms being inflicted that are unnecessary, given the availability of organic (as defined in federal law) alternatives.

Please know that there is a wealth of information on the efficacy, economic viability, and profitability of organic management practices that replace your agency’s current assumption about the need for, or reasonableness of, toxic chemical dependency. We urge that this information be utilized in all your regulatory and administrative decision-making in order to eliminate the current unnecessary reliance on toxic materials.

I look forward to your agency’s alternative organic analysis full implementation of the Modernizing Regulatory Review EO.

Thank you.

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