EPA Opposes Injunction in Pesticide Application Case

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a memorandum on Wednesday in the Southern District of New York, opposing the preliminary injunction and stay extension against its final rule, which multiple states and farmworker advocacy organizations have alleged increases the risk of exposure to pesticides for farmworkers. The lawsuit specifically challenges the rule’s alterations to Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ) requirements allowing farmworkers to be working near the application of pesticides. 

The EPA argued that their rule is consistent with the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), and asserted that the court should lift the restraining order against the final rule and not extend the stay. A hearing in the lawsuit is scheduled on Friday to determine if the restraining order and stay will continue or be lifted. 

“Because Plaintiffs have not established a likelihood of success on their claims, irreparable harm, or that an injunction or stay would serve the public interest, the Court should deny Plaintiffs’ request and terminate the stay,” the EPA said. “To succeed on their claims under FIFRA, Plaintiffs would have to demonstrate that the 2020 Rule was either not in accordance with the Act or that its promulgation was arbitrary and capricious. Plaintiffs cannot make either showing.” 

The agency argued that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate any harm they would receive without injunctive relief or that the balance of equities is in their favor. Additionally, the EPA claimed that relief from the rule “should be appropriately tailored” to apply only when plaintiffs have met standards for injunctive relief under provisions of the rule and that nationwide relief is not appropriate rather than relief for specific harms. 

A Memorandum of Law and multiple affidavits were also filed by the plaintiffs on Wednesday, asserting many of the same arguments alleged in their petition. They said that the final rule would increase the risk of harm from pesticides for farmworkers, the families of farmworkers, and other bystanders. They claimed that it “significantly weakens” AEZ protections, and asked the court to rule in favor of a permanent injunction for the rule. Furthermore, the advocacy organizations argued that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed, and that further requirements for the injunction have been met. 

Additionally, on Thursday, Judge Lewis Liman of the New York Southern District consolidated this lawsuit with another filed by New York, California, Illinois, Maryland, and Minnesota with similar allegations against the final rule. The final rule was set to go into effect near the end of December, but the judge previously granted the plaintiffs an injunction delaying its effective date to mid-January. 

The EPA is represented by Audrey Strauss, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The states are represented by their respective attorneys general. The farmworker organizations are represented by attorneys with Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice