Senior EPA pesticide officials “rushed to re-approve over-the-top dicamba uses” in 2020 to satisfy demands from senior political appointees in the Trump administration, environmental groups and the National Family Farm Coalition said in the latest filings in their court challenge to continued use of the herbicide.

Citing internal e-mails attached as exhibits to their motion for summary judgment and statement of material facts, the Center for Food Safety, Center for Biological Diversity, Pesticide Action Network North America, and NFFC said the record shows that “senior officials of the then-executive branch” pushed Office of Pesticide Program scientists to get a decision out the door in the fall of 2020 before the presidential election.

“Our senior folks don’t have any clue what they are asking us to do,” one EPA official says in an email in August 2020 as OPP was reviewing data in preparation for making a decision.

In the same email thread, that official says, “We … can’t  review all of the data so we need to prioritize” and then adds, “or we can’t review at the level you all would prefer :).”

The plaintiffs are asking the court to vacate the registrations.

Andrew Wheeler, former administrator of EPA, announced Oct. 27, 2020, that the herbicide would be approved for five years for use on soybeans and cotton in 34 states, despite reports of damage to crops and other flora from drift and volatilization.

The decision came a few months after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had vacated the registration of over-the-top applications after finding that EPA substantially understated or failed to consider the social and economic costs of the herbicide’s use.

“EPA’s risk assessments and the (Administrative) Record … identified drift risks that EPA entirely failed to consider, such (as) injury from dicamba runoff, dicamba-contaminated rainfall, wide-area effects of dicamba application, dicamba harm to trees, and potential effects on threatened and endangered species,” the plaintiffs said in their statement of material facts.

In the past five years, millions of acres of have been “damaged and sometimes destroyed by dicamba spray droplets drifting off-field during application,” the groups said in their motion for summary judgment, describing “vapor clouds damaging vast fields from fencerow to fencerow; dicamba-laced water running off sprayed fields, and even dicamba-contaminated rainfall in areas of intensive use.”

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EPA, Bayer, BASF and Syngenta, which holds the registration for Tavium, are scheduled to respond to the plaintiffs’ motion May 30. 

In a statement, BASF said, "We are aware of and reviewing the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, and we will not comment on active litigation. As the season is getting underway in many parts of the country, we remain focused on dicamba stewardship and training growers for successful applications in 2023."

Syngenta said it had no comment on the latest filings; Bayer also has been asked for comment.  

In their filings, the plaintiffs criticized EPA for not doing more since dicamba damage was first reported to mitigate its use.

“In what has become EPA’s repeated pattern, EPA has since (2020) twice amended the registration with amendments but otherwhile (sic) reaffirmed the challenged use approval, first in March of 2022 and most recently on Feb. 16, 2023,” the motion for summary judgment said.

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