Parties Discuss Scope of Relief in Farmworker’s Request to Delay EPA Pesticide Rule

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a letter on Saturday on behalf of all of the defendants, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), responding to Judge Lewis J. Liman’s request for briefing on the stay provision in the Administrative Procedure Act during an argument last Wednesday. The EPA was accused in the Southern District of New York matter of creating a regulation that would increase farmworkers’ risk of being exposed to pesticides by allowing them to be working at the location where the pesticides are being applied. 

The EPA explained that the request by the plaintiffs for the court to order a delay of the new rule’s implementation would need the same standards as a preliminary injunction, thus the plaintiffs would need to show that they would be likely to succeed, suffer irreparable harm if it is not granted, the balance of equities is in their favor, and that it would be in the public’s best interest. 

The defendants’ letter argued that the “Plaintiffs have not established that nationwide and rule-wide relief is necessary to remedy the harms they allege. If the Court concludes that some type of equitable relief is appropriate, that relief should be tailored to affect only (1) the harms that Plaintiffs can establish specifically as to themselves or their members, and (2) the portions of EPA’s 2020 Rule as to which Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood both of success on the merits and of irreparable harm absent equitable relief.” Additionally, the letter pointed out that the plaintiffs did not challenge many aspects of the rule and that there would be no reason to stay those portions as the plaintiffs had not met the required burdens. 

The plaintiffs also filed a letter, but said it was “pursuant to the Court’s leave to provide additional information on the scope of relief permitted,” rather than at the request of the court. They explained that the court was authorized to postpone the effective date of an agency action nationwide and that this action is taken regularly by courts. Additionally, they said the stay should be nationwide under the Administrative Procedure Act, “if the agency has no authority to act, its rule cannot take effect anywhere.” 

The plaintiffs argued that the scope necessary for an injunction would be the balance of equities because the plaintiffs represent farmworkers throughout the country, and asked for a stay of at least 90 days. The letter said the “Plaintiffs request that the Court grant a nationwide stay of sufficient length for the incoming presidential administration to determine its ‘preferred policy,’ regarding the rule at issue before it has to take a substantive position in this litigation.”

The defendants are represented by the Department of Justice. The farmworker organizations are represented by attorneys with Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice. Various states also filed a legal action with similar allegations against the EPA’s rule.